Bihar makes mockery of election
Tara Shankar Sahay in Patna
Fifteen people were killed and dozens of others were injured in violent incidents during the first phase of the general election in which 34 of the state's constituencies went to the polls.
In the midst of shooting, assault, numerous cases of booth-capturing and tearing up of ballot papers, the elections in Madhepura was reduced to a farce, alleged Janata Dal president Sharad Yadav.
Sharad Yadav staged a sit-down protest against alleged booth-capturing by activists of Rashtriya Janata Dal candidate and party president Laloo Prasad Yadav. But RJP supporters only passed sarcastic comments about Sharad Yadav. "Sharad has paid the price of his treachery and he shows now that he already conceded defeat by staging the strike," one of them said.
Laloo Yadav is gong to Hajipur on Tuesday to address a rally in support of party candidate Ram Sundar Das. The RJD chief's supporters maintain that JD candidate and Railway Minister Ram Vilas Paswan would be trounced by a record number of votes by the RJD candidate. Like Sharad Yadav, Paswan has also earned Laloo Yadav's enmity.
Unofficial reports put the death toll as 20, including three policemen. There was many cases of violence in constituencies the Election Commission had already marked as being sensitive. In Palamu in south Bihar, armed extremists reportedly shot and killed three policemen after raiding a police outpost. There were similar incidents in Nalanda (from where Samata Party chief George Fernandes is contesting), Jehanabad, Bikramganj and Hazaribagh, among others.
The violence and booth-capturing made mock of the claim of Chief Election Commissioner Dr M S Gill that polling in the state would be by and large peaceful. Although police and paramilitary forces were deployed in certain pockets of Patna city, people on the street claimed these personnel largely remained spectators. More than 1,100 people were arrested for booth-capturing and tearing up of ballot papers, according to the state home secretary.
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