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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.