Break from Bihar's blood-soaked poll history? (India)
A thaw appears to have set in in Bihar's bloody record of poll violence going by the statistics of death that emerged after the last three phases of Lok Sabha election.
Only seven lives were lost in stray incidents of landmine blasts during the polls on April 16, 23 and 30 involving 37 of 40 Lok Sabha seats.
Compare this to year 1999 when 76 persons had died during the Lok Sabha polls and during assembly polls in 2000 61 persons, including securitymen, lost their lives, according to the figures made available by the state election office here.
Similarly, 191 persons had died in the 2001 elections to the local and urban bodies.
In fact the large-scale violence and rigging in 1999 had brought the role of the Election Commission under the scanner.
The situation turned the corner after the EC deployed a special observer, Dr K J Rao, to oversee security during the 2004 general elections. It paid dividends as the death figures began to come down.
Nineteen people had died during the 2004 Lok Sabha polls and 27 in the 2005 Assembly elections.
Fifty-three people, including policemen, had lost their lives in poll-related violence during the Assembly elections in 1995 and 40 people had died during Lok Sabha polls in 1989, sources said.
The first three phases of elections to the 15th Lok Sabha in Bihar were 'relatively peaceful', additional director general of police (headquarters) Neelmani claims, adding it was only because of the fear of law among people at large.
Under a special drive since 2006, 31254 people have been convicted in Bihar of various crimes.
Eighty-six people have been awarded death sentence and 6293 life sentence in January and February, 2009 alone, 2555 people were convicted, the sources said.
Unlike earlier, not a single civilian was killed in violence related to booth capturing and clashes between political parties or caste groups.
Maoists shot dead two security personnel in Gaya district in elections to 13 parliamentary seats in the first phase on April 16.
Five policemen were killed and a civilian driver of their vehicle was critically injured when Maoist guerrillas set off a landmine blast in Muzaffarpur district soon after the polling for 13 Lok Sabha seats on April 23 ended.
The Maoists had detonated a landmine at a culvert near Karpoori chowk at Mohabbatpur village, about 60 km from Muzaffarpur, that evening, killing five policemen including a sub-inspector on the spot.
Earlier that day, Maoist rebels had detonated a landmine, but it missed the target and the securitymen escaped unhurt.
According to experts, the dip in poll-related violence and booth-capuring during the current election has been made possible due to the NDA government's relentless efforts to establish rule of law.
''Out of around 8000 villages in Bihar, on an average four people have been convicted per village,'' they said.
Von: 04.05.2009, Press Trust Of India, www.business-standard.com