The fourth phase of the Bihar elections saw polling at its most aggressive yet. Sunday’s 57.59 per cent turnout was just ahead of the 57 per cent of the first phase, and nearly four points higher than the 54 per cent in these 55 seats in 2010.
Also, women voters maintained the enthusiasm they have shown all through the polls, this time clocking 60 per cent to the men’s 54 per cent. Young voters packing queues, too, remained a uniform feature.
With 34 of the 55 seats feature NDA legislators seeking re-election, the region is key to the BJP and its allies. The BJP exuded confidence after voting closed. “We already have enough seats to form the government with a majority with the conclusion of the fourth phase,” said Nandkishore Yadav, leader of the opposition in the outgoing assembly. “By the time the fifth phase of polling ends on November 5, we will finish with a two-thirds majority in the 243-member house.”
The fifth and final phase is in Kosi and Seemanchal, where the grand alliance is confident because of a high Muslim and Yadav population. Though the BJP had won 12 of the 24 seats in Seemanchal in 2010, that was in alliance with the JD(U) and political alignments have changed since then.
In a first for the current elections, a subdivisonal police officer of East Champaran was called back from duty in Pakdidayal following allegations that he was favouring a particular party. There was, however, no official confirmation of any written complaint against the SDPO. Voters at a polling station at a Gaighat, eanawhile, accused paramilitary jawans for “trying to influence” votes.
In Sheohar, an argument at a booth led to a lathicharge and polling was disrupted for about an hour. A poll officer said the Election Commission would take a final decision on a re-election there. Voters were arguing with government officials when they caught the attention of a HAM team, and a delegation led by party spokesperson Danish Rizwan met an EC team. “We complained about some officials trying to help a particular candidate. We are satisfied with the EC’s assurance,” said Rizwan, adding some voters were hurt in the lathicharge. The HAM candidate there is Lovely Anand, the wife of incarcerated former MP Anand Mohan.
Top leaders who cast their votes Sunday included Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, BJP state president Mangal Pandey and Transport Minister Ramai Ram. Pandey said the NDA would win the election and added “it is Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad who look desperate”.
At a booth in Kudni, voter Manoj Kumar said: “Dekhte hai kamal khilta hai ki nahin. Kamal khile to theek, nahin to koi baat nahin (Let us see if the lotus blooms or not. If it blooms, well and good; if not, it doesn’t matter.” JD(U) minister Manoj Kumar Kushwaha is seeking re-election from Kudni.
Most voters talked about development deciding their choice while refusing to reveal that choice.
In Bochaha, from where Ram, the JD(U) transport minister, is recontesting for a ninth term, voters said he faces a triangular fight against the LJP’s Anil Kumar Sadhu — Ram Vilas Paswan’s son-in-law — and independent candidate Baby Kumari. Tarkeshwar Sahni said, “Ram has hardly any development work to show but has been winning mainly because of the social combination and the large number of Dalit votes in the reserved constituency.” Baby Kumari, he said, is the favourite for a large number of voters and is giving a tough fight to veteran Ram in what has been his citadel so far.