Polling began on Tuesday morning in 35 constituencies spread across eight districts in the fifth and penultimate phase of the assembly elections in Bihar under the shadow of a boycott call by Maoists.
Nearly 81.26 lakh voters will be eligible to vote in this phase of election, which will decide the fate of 490 candidates, including 44 women. Prominent candidates in the fray are ministers and Janata Dal - United leaders Hari Narain Singh (Harnaut), Jitan Ram Manjhi (Makhdumpur), Bhagwan Singh Kushwaha (Jagdishpur). Bharatiya Janata Party minister Prem Kumar (Gaya town). Chief whip in the assembly Shravan Kumar (Nalanda), party members of legislative assembly Asha Devi (Barhara), Sunil Kumar (Biharsharif), Shyam Rajak (Phulwari), Narendra Kumar Pandey (Tarari), senior BJP leaders Sayadeo Narain Arya (Rajgir), and Amrendra Pratap Singh (Ara) are also in the fray. Lok Janshakti Party's Dularchand Yadav from Arwal, former Rashtriya Janata Dal ministers Surendra Prasad Yadav (Belaganj), Raghvendra Pratap Singh (Barhara), Suresh Paswan (Agiwan) and Rajballabh Prasad (Nawada) are also in the fray.
In the 17 constituencies that have been declared 'Maoist-hit', voting began at 7 am and will end at 3 pm. Polling in the remaining constituencies will end at 5 pm. Director General of Police Neelmani said central paramilitary forces and armed police personnel were deployed at all polling stations in Naxal-hit areas.
The director general of police said borders with Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have been sealed. The police would use phone line tracking and Google Earth to keep a watch on the movement of Maoists, Neelmani said. Over 40,000 polling personnel would be engaged in the electoral exercise, Chief Electoral Officer S K Rakesh said. Polling at several booths would be webcast by BSNL.
An estimated nine per cent voters exercised their franchise in the first two hours of polling. No untoward incident was reported from anywhere in these constituencies so far, DGP Neelmani said.
An estimated 9 per cent of the total 81.26 lakh voters exercised their franchise by 9 am. Initially, defects in EVMs at a couple of booths in the constituencies in Ara, Atri, Arwal, Nawada, Biharsharief, Harnaut, Belaganj and Shekhpur were reported, but they were promptly attended to or replaced, official sources said.