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Mass voting as critical Bihar battle under way

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Patna: Tens of thousands voted or stood in serpentine queues at polling booths on Monday in the first round of assembly election in Bihar.

Barring stray incidents of violence including the shooting of a LJP candidate who escaped unhurt, the mammoth Bihar battle exercise that began at 7 am was largely peaceful across 49 seats in 10 districts, officials said.

By noon, around 32 percent of the about 13.5 million voters in the first of the five-phase balloting had voted to pick 49 legislators from among 583 candidates.

“We expect the polling figures to go up,” Additional Chief Electoral Officer R Lakshaman said. He said polling was slow to begin with but picked up later.

According to him, women were voting in large numbers.

Maoists had called for a boycott of the election but it was clear the message had been ignored.

Unidentified men fired at LJP candidate Vijay Kumar Singh in Jamui constituency but he escaped unhurt. Police arrested one of the criminals involved in the attack.

“There are reports of some violence in Banka, Jamui and Bhagalpur districts. Supporters of rival parties attacked each other in Jamui and clashed in Banka,” a senior police official said.

The BJP-led NDA alliance, also including three other parties including the LJP, is trying to dislodge the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U), which has the RJD and the Congress as its allies.

Some voters turned up at polling booths even before they opened at 7 am.

Voters in most polling booths said they would vote for Bihar’s development.

“It is the only agenda that has attracted me,” said Suman Kumar, a voter in Bhagalpur district.

Another voter, Giridhari Yadav in Khagaria, said he will vote for the Grand Alliance of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

“Why should I vote for the BJP when we have tested Nitish Kumar? He has constructed roads, provided electricity, and set up schools and hospitals in rural areas,” he said.

Bihar police chief PK Thakur told the media here that polling was peaceful, barring minor clashes.

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

The second round of polling for the 243-seat assembly will be held on October 16. The vote count will take place 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.

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

In areas of Maoist influence, the voting will end at 3 pm.

Some 1.20 lakh security officials have been deployed in the 13,212 polling booths, officials said.

The Election Commission is also webcasting polling from 561 booths.

The heavyweights in the fray on Monday include state LJP president Pashupati Kumar Paras, BJP ally HAM state president Shakuni Choudhary and Congress leader and former Speaker Sadanand Singh.

(IANS)

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Controversial remarks could have been avoided: Chirag Paswan

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NewsGram News Desk

New Delhi: Apparently referring to V K Singh’s ‘dog remark’ and beef advertisements by the ally BJP, Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) leader Chirag Paswan on Friday said that a few statements from the ruling party and the Grand Alliance could have been avoided during Bihar Assembly polls campaign.

Paswan lashed out at the BJP over its cow advertisements in Bihar newspapers. “They were just not needed,” he said while also condemning V K Singh’s dog remark, saying that it did “hurt” them.

The LJP leader on Friday said that “a few statements from the ruling party and the Grand Alliance could have been avoided,” adding that every leader should be careful about what they say.

The government cannot be held responsible for the murder of the two Dalit children in Haryana, General Singh had said, adding that, “If someone throws stones at a dog, the government is not responsible.”

Chirag’s father, Ram Vilas Paswan, had reacted to Singh’s statement saying, “I don’t descend to such low talk, have never done it with any issue,” adding that, “If there is any attempt to divide the society I am totally against it. I believe there should be no ‘ bayaanbaazi’ (politicking) over it.”

On the other hand, the Election Commission had reprimanded Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav for his alleged remarks to influence voters in the name of ‘divine displeasure’.

At an election rally in Nalanda on 7 October, Yadav reportedly said, “Those who do not keep their promise, then the Hindus will not get a place in heaven and Muslims will not meet Allah in paradise.”

Meanwhile, as curtains came down on Thursday on the staggered five-phase assembly elections in Bihar, various exit polls appeared to be divided over the fate of major parties in the fray with some predicting NDA win and even a hung assembly.

An India Today-Cicero exit poll on Thursday predicted a hung assembly in Bihar, with the BJP-led alliance winning 120 seats to the Grand Alliance’s 117. Any party or combine would need 122 seats to secure a simple majority in the 243-member assembly.

Meanwhile, NewsX predicted that the BJP and its allies are set to lose the battle for the Bihar assembly, winning only 95 of the 243 seats

It said the BJP and its three allies would secure 90-100 seats while the Grand Alliance led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will win 130-140 seats whereas CVoter predicted a narrow JD-U win.

Exit poll agency Today’s Chanakya, however, predicted that the BJP-led alliance will win 155 seats in the Bihar assembly while the Grand Alliance will win 83 seats.

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Caste matrix brings cheer to JD-U & Co in Bhagalpur

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Bhagalpur, Oct 8: Thanks to Bihar’s known caste equations, the “Grand Alliance” appears to be sitting pretty in most of Bhagalpur’s seven assembly constituencies. This is bad news for the BJP.

Political activists admit that social engineering — or coalition of castes — seems to have worked for the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) as well as the Congress.

But the three-party alliance is facing, like its main foe Bharatiya Janata Party, stiff opposition from party rebels in at least five constituencies.

The BJP has fielded candidates for four seats in the district, leaving two to the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and one to the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP).

In the other camp, the JD-U is fighting for three seats, and the Congress and RJD two each.

Bhagalpur goes to the polls on October 12 in the first phase of the staggered voting in Bihar.

The BJP has been hit by one of the worst ever rebellions in its rank and file in the Bhagalpur, Kahalgaon and Gopalpur constituencies. The Grand Alliance faces the same problem in Nathnagar and Sultanganj.

There is a direct fight between the two alliances in Bihpur and Pirpainti.

After Buxar MP Ashwini Kumar Choubey’s son Arijit Shashwat was named the BJP nominee from Bhagalpur, party leader Vijay Prasad Sah jumped into the fray as an independent.

Sah, giving sleepless nights to BJP leaders, has made the electoral battle triangular. The Congress has fielded outgoing legislator Ajit Sharma, a billionaire with assets of more than Rs.40 crore.

In Gopalpur, BJP’s former legislator Amit Rana has filed nomination against the party’s official candidate Anil Yadav. Rana, a son of fodder scam convict R.K. Rana, joined the BJP a few months back. Another BJP rebel, Suresh Bhagat, is also in the fray.

The Grand Alliance has fielded outgoing legislator Narendra Kumar Niraj alias Gopal Mandal.

Veteran Congress leader Sadanand Singh, seeking a ninth term in the Bihar assembly, faces a triangular contest in Kahalgaon. His challenge comes from BJP rebel Pawan Kumar Yadav and LJP’s Niraj Kumar Mandal.

In neighbouring Nathnagar, former JD-U leader Abu Kaiser, contesting as Pappu Yadav-led Jan Adhikar Party’s candidate, may spoil the prospects of JD-U’s official candidate Ajay Kumar Mandal.

If this wasn’t enough, Mandal, an outgoing legislator, has another headache: RJD rebel Pappu Yadav. The LJP has fielded Amarnath Prasad alias Amar Singh Kushwaha.

The BJP-led NDA hopes to win this seat as it is expecting the Yadav and Muslim votes to get split.

In Sultanganj, the main fight is between JD-U’s outgoing legislator and former CPI-M MP Subodh Ray and RLSP’s Himanshu Prasad. Vijay Mandal of the BJP and Lalan Yadav of the Congress are contesting independently, and they can’t be ignored.

Bihpur is the only place where the BJP is sure of victory.
It has fielded outgoing legislator Kumar Shailendra, who is in direct fight with RJD’s Varsha Rani, wife of Bhagalpur MP Shailesh Kumar alias Bulo Mandal.

Pirpainti, the only reserved constituency of Bhagalpur, will also witness a direct fight between the BJP and the RJD. The BJP has chosen Lalan Paswan, denying ticket to outgoing legislator Aman Paswan. The RJD has fielded Ram Vilas Paswan.

“We are wining the Bihpur seat comfortably and are in close contest in Nathnagar and Pirpainti,” a veteran BJP leader told IANS on the condition of anonymity.

But he admitted: “We are facing charges of promoting dynastic politics in Bhagalpur. The same is the case with RJD in Bihpur. People don’t like such politics.”

Ashok Kumar, a homeopathy doctor who is also a cable operator in Nathnagar, told IANS that Bhagalpur’s basic problems were “bijli, pani aur sadak”.

“But ultimately people will vote on caste lines, which goes in favour of Mahagathbandhan,” he said, referring to the Grand Alliance.

“It’s very unfortunate but a reality. People vote on caste lines.

The traditional social base of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad – backward class and Muslims – dominate in Bhagalpur in comparison to the NDA’s leaning on upper castes,” Kumar said.

Sunil Kumar Yadav of S.S.V College in Kahalgaon told IANS: “We want development but Yadavs and Gangotas, along with a sizeable chunk of Kurmis and Muslims, have made the road smooth for the Grand Alliance.”

Sensing the situation, BJP president Amit Shah has sent Navsari MP C.R. Patil to Bhagalpur for micro management at the booth level. Patil and some 40 Gujaratis are camping at the residence of a BJP Yadav leader. Shah has held a workers’ meeting in Pirpainti and addressed a rally in Bhagalpur.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has also addressed a rally in Bhagalpur, and Congress president Sonia Gandhi pulled crowds in Kahalgaon.

In the last assembly election, the BJP won two seats and the JD-U three in Bhagalpur when they were allies. Two seats went to the Congress.

(Brajendra Singh,IANS)

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Bihar Polls: NDA seat sharing to be finalised today

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credit: www.indiatoday.intoday.in

By NewsGram Staff-Writer

credit: www.ndtv.com
credit: www.ndtv.com

PATNA: Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has finally sorted out the seat sharing issues with its allies and is likely to release the blueprint for the upcoming Bihar assembly elections, news reports claimed.

Sources suggests that during a meeting on September 11, BJP President Amit Shah has successfully convinced its allies, including Lok Janshakti Party (LJP), for sharing seats based on individual influence. LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan is said to have agreed to the formula, coming down from his earlier demand of 40 seats.

Among other BJP partners, Jitan Ram Manjhi’s Hindustan Awam Morcha and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party have been vocal about whatever the BJP chief will decide,  they will agree upon. According to TV reports, the seat sharing deal with these two parties has already been finalised.

Keeping around 160 seats in its pocket, BJP is planning to share rest of the 243 seats with its allies. Before the official announcement, Amit Shah is likely to hold meetings with all the MPs and top BJP leaders.

Following a simple formula of sharing, BJP wants to keep maximum number of seats so that they can have a chance of gaining comfortable majority of 122 seats on its own. Sources also indicates that BJP is worried about the mega-coalition’s drive which can sweep a large number of seats. In that case, if BJP gains majority, and Nitish-Lalu’s coalition gets second most seats, then it will be tough for BJP to get its allies on board.

In convincing all the allies for Bihar polls, union minister Ananth Kumar has been the chief negotiator where he worked hard on toning their demands and persuaded them to settle for least number of seats.