Bihar polls: No violence, 54% voter turnout in phase I

Saini Sa'aB

Patna: The battle for Bihar began in earnest today with the first phase of polling in the month-long, six-phase Bihar Assembly election. 54% of the over 1 crore voters exercised their franchise on electronic voting machines (EVM).

47 contituencies in north Bihar went to the hustings - 13 in the Kosi region with its largely Extremely Backward Caste voters, Seemanchal's 23 seats where the Muslim voters hold the key and backward caste dominated Madhubani with its 11 seats.

In the 2005 elections, all the three regions had been swept by Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal -United (JDU). This time Congress and the Lalu Yadav-Ram Vilas Paswan combine hope to make some in roads.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's 'development mantra' has forced all major players to build their campaign around that plank, making it the biggest election issue.

Development, progress and infrastructure seem to have become the watchword for the electorate, unprecedented in Bihar where all elections in the past four decades have been fought on caste lines.

Another first for the state is the peaceful polling. No election related violence was reported on Day 1 of the 6-phase polls.

"The change is that voters are now secure about casting their vote for whichever party they want," Baldeo Prasad, Darbhanga's Deputy Inspector General told NDTV.

The next phase of polling is on October 24, where 45 of the state's 243 seats go to the polls. Counting of votes will take place on November 24.