More than five million people vote in Bihar
Patna: More than five million people voted yesterday in 48 constituencies of Bihar in the third of six-phase elections to pick a new 243-member assembly, the mammoth exercise going off peacefully.
But for minor clashes, police and election officials said the balloting was conducted without trouble in the six districts of Vaishali, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, and East and West Champaran.
The third phase was widely seen as a major test for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's claims of good governance and rule of law.
His Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and his ally the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) hold 27 of the 48 contested seats. The Rashtriya Janata Dal and Lok Janshakti Party hold 14 seats, and the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) one each.
Independents hold four seats. The opposition was determined to undercut Nitish Kumar in yesterday's electoral region.
Bihar Police chief Neelmani said that nearly 150 troublemakers were arrested for trying to disrupt the elections in some polling centres.
Balloting began on a low key but picked up as the day progressed. By 5pm, around 53 per cent of the 10.3 million eligible voters had exercised their franchise.
Defying Maoist calls to boycott the elections, men and women queued up outside many polling centres even before they opened. After the elections ended, JD-U leader Rajiv Ranjan Sinha claimed that the ruling alliance was sure to increase its seat tally.
"We are sure to do better than last time," he said.
BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said it was now certain that the NDA will return to power. But RJD leader Ram Kirpal Yadav said the RJD-LJP combine will surprise everyone.
As in the first two rounds of elections October 21 and 24, a section of voters refused to vote yesterday to denounce what they said the government's failure to carry out development work in their area.
One reason for the smooth conduct of the elections was the deployment of tens of thousands of paramilitary forces.
At the same time, the Sashastra Seema Bal sealed the India-Nepal border and the border with Uttar Pradesh.
RJD leader and former railway minister Lalu Prasad is MP from Saran but Paswan was defeated in the last Lok Sabha election in Hajipur in Vaishali.
The heavyweights in this phase included former chief minister Rabri Devi, contesting from Raghopur in Vaishali and Sonepur in Saran district, JD-U's Birshen Patel from Vaishali and BJP's Renu Devi from Bettiah.
The next rounds of elections will be held November 1, 9 and 20. Votes will be counted November 24.