Voters queue up in first phase of Bihar assembly polls (Third Lead)

Patna, Oct 12 (IANS) Long queues formed outside polling centres on Monday as ballotting took place in the first phase of Bihar’s staggered assembly election in 49 constituencies, including some which are Maoist-affected.

Around 12 to 15 percent polling was recorded till 10 a.m. in the 49 assembly seats spread across 10 districts, officials said.

Polling is likely to pick up by noon, additional Chief Electoral Officer R. Lakshaman said.

About 13.5 million voters are eligible to decide the political fate of 583 candidates in the fray.

Some of the voters turned up at the polling booth early in the morning when polling began at 7 a.m. Voters at most of the polling booths said that they would vote for development and growth of the state.

“I have decided to vote for development as it is the only agenda that has attracted me,” said Suman Kumar, a voter in Bhagalpur district.

Another voter Giridhari Yadav in Khagaria district said he will vote for the grand alliance of Nitish Kumar, who he said had worked hard to develop Bihar.

“Why should I vote for the BJP led NDA when we have tested Nitish Kumar as chief minister who developed the state by constructing roads, provided electricity and set up schools and hospitals in rural areas. (BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra) Modi is yet to fulfill promises…,” he said.

Voters in Banka, Jamui, Nawada districts too said they will to vote for development.

Bihar police chief P.K. thakur told the media here that so far polling was peaceful, with no report of violence barring minor clashes between rivals.

Samastipur, Begusarai, Khagaria, Bhagalpur, Banka, Munger, Lakhisarai, Sheikhpura, Nawada and Jamui districts are voting in the first phase.

The next rounds of polling for the 243-seat assembly will be held on October 26 and 28, and Nov 1 and 5. Counting of votes will be on November 8.

Poverty-stricken Jamui, Banka and Bhagalpur are among the 10 districts, which are known for high rates of migration outside the state in search of livelihood.

Stray incidents of clashes were reported between rival groups. At some places, the electronic voting machines malfunctioned. Apart from that, it was a smooth exercise in a state earlier notorious for election-related violence.

Officials said that voters in over a dozen villages in Samastipur, Bhagalpur, Jamui and Banka boycotted the polls and shouted slogans against the lack of development.

The Election Commission has reduced polling hours in Maoist-hit areas to 3 p.m.

The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, earlier this month, vowed to intensify attacks to disrupt the election process and enforce its boycott of the polls.

Drones will be used for the first time for surveillance along with four helicopters and about 1.20 lakh security officials, including 87,600 central paramilitary personnel, would be deployed at 13,212 polling booths, officials said.

The heavyweights in the fray in this phase include state LJP president Pashupati Kumar Paras, younger brother of LJP chief and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan, BJP ally Hindustani Awam Morcha state president Shakuni Choudhary, senior Congress leader and former state assembly speaker Sadanand Singh and Vijay Kumar Choudhary, a Bihar minister who is considered close to Nitish Kumar.

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