57 Bihar constituencies go to the polls today
The four-phase polling process for the Bihar Assembly starts on Tuesday when voters of 57 of the 243 constituencies exercise their franchise for the second time in just about six months. Naxalites followed up their call for boycott by attacking a railway station and a police station. In February, they killed 11 police personnel. The security forces this time have been provided with anti-mine vehicles and mine-detectors.
Over 1.23 crore voters will be deciding the fate of 541 candidates in the fray in the constituencies spread over 12 naxalite-prone districts — Gaya, Jehanabad, Arwal, Kaimur, Rohtas, Aurangabad, Nawada, Patna, Jammui, Banka, Bhojpur and Buxar.
Apart from putting in place a vast security network, Election Commission adviser K.J. Rao is monitoring the situation along with two other observers. Two IAF helicopters have been placed at their command for aerial surveys and inspections .
State Government officials claimed that all booths had been protected in the light of the EC's decision not to hold polls in booths without proper security.
Besides, commandos are keeping a round-the-clock aerial vigil aboard two M-18 choppers of the IAF, giving cover and assistance to 600 companies of paramilitary forces pressed into service to keep naxalite squads and anti-socials at bay. Digital cameras will take photographs of voters in booths not provided with paramilitary forces to check bogus voting.
Naxalites followed up their call for boycott by attacking a railway station and a police station. In February, they killed 11 police personnel. The security forces this time have been provided with anti-mine vehicles and mine-detectors.
There has been a spurt in violence much as the countdown has begun for the election. BSP candidate Ram Chandra Yadav was shot at in Bhabhua constituency by some criminals. Two persons were also injured.
Yesterday, Samajwadi Party candidate in Nokha constituency Atendra Kumar Singh was attacked by criminals. It was at an election meeting in the same constituency that the former Union Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, was shot at.
In Biharsharif a JD(U) worker was killed, while a youth was killed in Sheikhpura Constituency. In Bhojpur district a few Dalit houses were torched at Dhanpura and some of them were beaten up.
The Secular Democratic Front of the RJD, the Congress, the CPI (M) and the NCP would be striving to maintain their supremacy in the region and put off the challenge from the NDA comprising the BJP and the JD (U).
The presence of the LJP candidates has given an interesting twist to quite a few battles. LJP chief and Union Steel Minister Ram Vilas Paswan seems to have targeted his former State unit chief Narendra Singh and the legislative wing leader Ramashray Prasad Singh for having deserted him and joining the JD(U). In Makhdumpur constituency, Mr. Paswan has pitted the former Congress chief, Ram Jatan Sinha, against Mr. Ramashray Prasad Singh, hoping to divide the Bhumihar votes. Seeking to take advantage, the RJD has fielded Krishnanandan Verma, of the Koeri community. The battle is for the Koeri votes in the first phase generally.
As for Narendra Singh, his son, Abhay Singh, who won on the LJP ticket last time from Chakai, is locked in a triangular fight in Jammui. The LJP has fielded Tuntun Bhagat, who lost the contest in 2000 just by a slender margin, while the RJD has retained its sitting MLA, Vijay Prakash, brother of Union Minister Jai Prakash Narain Yadav. RJD spokesman Shivanand Tiwari is among the prominent candidates in the fray.
Von: 18 October 2005, http://www.hinduonnet.com