The battle for Bihar entered its second phase as 32 constituencies spread across six Maoist-hit districts went to polls on Friday.
The polling percentage was 46.99% till 2pm. Defying Maoist threat, a large number of people stood in queues to cast their votes.
“Initially queues were small. Now voters are seen standing in long queues outside polling booths,” an election commission official said.
A bomb in a can (used for carrying milk) was found at polling booth no 144 near Rafiganj constituency in Aurangabad district. It sparked panic among voters but a bomb squad reached the spot and brought things under control.
A CRPF jawan died of heart attack and a vehicle was set afire in Hussainabad in Gaya.
In the second phase, around 86 lakh voters will decide the fate of 456 candidates at 9,119 polling stations in the districts of Kaimur, Rohtas, Arwal, Jehanabad, Aurangabad and Gaya.
Voting started at 7am in all the constituencies. Additional chief electoral officer R Lakshamanan said it would end at 3pm in 11 constituencies and at 4pm in 12 others. On nine seats, the scheduled voting is from 7am to 5pm.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter, asking people to exercise their voting rights.
आज बिहार विधानसभा चुनाव के दूसरे चरण के मतदान में सभी मतदाताओं से निवेदन- अपना मतदान अवश्य करें ।— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 16, 2015
An estimated 57% of the electorate cast their votes in the first phase held on October 12. In Bihar, the BJP-led NDA is up against a so-called grand alliance of the Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress.
If the first phase of campagning saw the grand alliance and the NDA fight over the reservation and beef issues besides resorting to mudslinging, the second was no better.
The NDA sharpened its attack over a sting operation of a JD-U minister while the grand alliance attacked PM Modi for his prolonged silence on the Dadri lynching case.
A sting video surfaced last week showing senior Bihar minister Awadhesh Prasad Kushwaha purportedly accepting bribe, forcing him to resign a day ahead of the first phase of polling in the state.
The video provided the NDA fresh ammunition to attack the alliance on corruption during the electioneering for the second of the five-phase polls. The matter was also raised by PM Modi at his rallies in Jehanabad and Bhabua.
The second phase voting constitutes a great challenge for the security personnel as the six districts are heavily affected by Maoist movement.
In view of the security concerns, a total of 993 companies of Central Para Military forces and state police are deployed to ensure peaceful voting. As many as 334 companies would be in service in Gaya, 201 in Rohtas and 193 in Aurangabad.
While contests on all the seats is intense, the battle at Imamganj (reserved SC seat) would be closely watched where former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi of Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) is locked in a straight contest with the Speaker of the outgoing assembly, Uday Narain Chaudhary of JD-U. Chaudhary is a five-term MLA from the seat.
Manjhi is also contesting from Makhdumpur seat in Jehanabad.
(With PTI inputs)