Updated: October 13, 2015 11:26:15 am
Women voted enthusiastically in the first phase of the Bihar elections Monday, pushing the turnout to 57 per cent, over 6 points higher than the 50.85 per cent that these 49 seats registered in 2010. Women, who comprise 47 per cent of the electorate of 1.35 crore in this region, outdid the men with a turnout of 59.5 per cent to 54.5 per cent.
This team of The Indian Express travelled to nine polling booths across three districts and five assembly seats. Women — and youth — were a common feature in all 10 districts, including Naxal-hit Lakhisarai, Jamui, Sheikhpura, Nawada and Munger, where polling concluded at 3 pm rather than 5 pm.
The slogan “pehle matdaan, phir jalpaan (vote first, breakfast later)” seemed to be working in the morning hours at Tarapur Purani Bazar polling booth. Kailasho Devi, 85 and blind, was helped to the booth by her 60-year-old daughter. “This is the only time I feel I am of some use, though I know leaders will not make much difference to my life,” said Kailasho, whose daughter helped her press the button.
The oldest voter who turned out Monday, too, was a woman, 108-year-old Maharani Devi of Teghra in Begusarai.
In Amarpur, Harivashnagar polling booth has 670 voters registered. Security personnel at the booth agreed women outnumbered the men. “Maybe they want to vote now and then cook and send the men in the second half,” said a CRPF jawan. Rekha Devi came with a group of women from her extended family. “Some of our men are working outside Bihar but all the women voted. Don’t ask me to tell you whom we voted for.”
The chatter at most booths indicated many were voting according to caste. Expressions such as “fight between phool (lotus) and teer (arrow)” were frequently heard, indicating voters see it as a direct contest between Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar.
In Goeda village, which has mixed population of Brahmins, Yadavs, Koeris and some EBCs, R K Mishra described the poll dynamics: “Nitish still seems to be the favoured choice for OBCs but it is more or less on caste lines. It is anyone’s game in Amarpur.”
At Lakhanpur, home of Tarapur’s HAM candidate Shakuni Choudhary, Sarita, who is paralysed in the legs, was helped to the polling booth by her husband Umesh Thakur. When a Muslim elder hinted he was voting for the NDA candidate, the others looked to him incredulously.
Gangania in Sultanganj, where sitting JD(U) MLA Subodh Roy faces RLSP candidate Himanshu Patel, Pritam Kumar Mandal said: “Upendra Kushwaha has created confusion. This is the closest election we have ever seen.”
Kalyanpur in Munger saw aggressive polling with a high participation of women. Some women discussed Nitish, praising the work he has done as chief minister. Lalu Prasad was not a talking point except in Yadav-dominated booths.
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