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Fourth phase of Bihar polls ends with 58 per cent vote

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Patna: The fourth and penultimate phase of Bihar’s assembly polls, the biggest popularity test in the country since the February Delhi election the BJP lost, ended on Sunday with around 58 per cent of the 14 million electorate voting, officials said.

Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Grand Alliance of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar claimed they had the upper hand as polling ended in 55 of the 243 constituencies in seven districts.

Additional Chief Electoral Officer R Lakshmanan said the exercise passed off peacefully, including in Maoist strongholds.

About 55.32 per cent voting took place till 4 pm — and 58 per cent when it got over an hour later.

Barring minor clashes, the polling was peaceful, police said. Over two dozen “anti-social elements” were arrested for violating the model code of conduct and threatening election officials.

Even as the voting was on, Prime Minister Modi addressed election rallies in constituencies that will see polling on November 5 – three days before the Bihar result will be known — and urged the people to vote for the BJP-led four-party alliance.

BJP leaders claimed that the large voter turnout showed their party was headed for a victory. The same claim was also made by leaders of Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal-United (JD-U).

Polling in 12 of the constituencies where Maoists are active ended early.

Voters queued up at many polling stations even before they opened. As the day progressed, the pace of polling picked up.

At some places, the electronic voting machines malfunctioned — but they were quickly restored.

There was no major incident of violence. But police used force when political activists clashed outside a polling booth in Sheohar district.

As many as 776 candidates were in the fray on Sunday in the districts of Gopalganj, Siwan, West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi and Muzaffarpur.

The main contest is between the BJP and its allies the LJP, HAM and RLSP on the one hand, and the JD-U, the RJD and the Congress on the other.

The Bihar election is the most significant political battle after the BJP lost the Delhi assembly election to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in February.

Both Modi and BJP president Amit Shah have been on an aggressive drive in a bid to woo voters in Bihar — only to be countered by Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and former chief minister Lalu Prasad, who said again on Sunday that the BJP would face defeat in the state.

(IANS)

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India Begins Its Election Season With Five States

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh.

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India, elections
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India began on Monday the first of five state elections to be held in coming weeks, important tests for Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he plots a course that he hopes will ensure him victory in a general election due by May.

Voters in the central state of Chhattisgarh went to the polls on Monday to elect representatives for 18 of the state assembly’s 90 seats in a staggered poll complicated by logistical problems and left-wing guerrillas.

The state of about 26 million people has been ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 2003, and he will be hoping to hold on to power.

India, elections
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“Some unholy people have handed guns to children who should have pens in their hands,” Modi told a rally in the state on Friday, referring to the rag-tag guerrillas battling government forces from forest hideouts. “They’ve finished the lives of our tribal children.”

Hundreds of election workers had to be flown in to remote polling stations by helicopter because of the danger posed by the rebels.

Modi called for voters to back his BJP and its vision of “development for all.”

The final phase of voting in Chhattisgarh, which is known for its coal, iron ore and bauxite reserves, will be on Nov. 20.

India,India, elections
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The BJP was the preference of about 43 percent of voters in Chhattisgarh, 7 percentage points ahead of the main opposition Congress party, according to a survey released last week by the Lokniti-Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

Modi’s other big tests will be in the neighboring central state of Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP is slightly ahead of Congress, according to polls, and in the northwestern state of Rajasthan, where Congress is expected to emerge victorious.

A good performance by the BJP in the elections would help it deflect growing criticism over unemployment and a crisis in the countryside over falling farm prices and wages.

India, elections
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Elections will also be held for assemblies in Telangana in the south and Mizoram in the northeast.

The BJP has sent top leaders to campaign in Chhattisgarh, including Yogi Adityanath, a firebrand Hindu priest and the BJP chief minister in Uttar Pradesh state.

Also Read: PM Narendra Modi Announces Easier Access to Credit

Adityanath has been appealing to the BJP’s Hindu-nationalist base and on Sunday accused the opposition of blocking construction of a temple for Hindu god Ram on a disputed site in Uttar Pradesh.

The destruction of a mosque on the site by a Hindu mob in 1992 sparked deadly riots across the country. (VOA)