Spurred by a big turnout of women and Muslims, Bihar recorded an impressive 54% polling — a significant rise from 45% in last year’s Lok Sabha elections — in the first phase of assembly polls on Thursday.
The elections were held in 47 of the 243 constituencies spread across eight districts of the Seemanchal-Mithila-Kosi belt.
Women voters, with infants in their arms, queued outside polling booths in Madhubani, Madhepura, Supaul, Kishanganj, Katihar, Purnia, Araria and Saharsa districts even before balloting began at 7am.
Election Commission officials said some Muslim-dominated districts recorded a huge turnout, even higher than the state’s average.
Katihar saw a turnout of 57.5% — the highest in the state — and was followed by Kishanganj at 57%. Two other districts with large Muslim populations, Purnia and Araria, recorded a turnout of 55% and 53%, respectively.
“Muslim voters, including burqa-clad women, were seen queuing outside booths even before polling began. The turnout of Muslims was substantial in all eight districts,” said an election official.
The high turnout of Muslims in the four Seemanchal districts could be a worrying factor for the ruling alliance of the JD-U and the BJP.
JD-U leader and chief minister Nitish Kumar’s association with the BJP which led the movement to pull down the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya — and the fact that a lot of Muslim leaders in the state are unhappy with the recent court verdict in the Ayodhya title suit, may affect his party’s prospects.
The moderate turnout of upper castes in Madhubani, Purnia, Katihar and Saharsa districts can add to his woes. His only hope could be his support base among the extremely backward castes who dominate Kosi and Mithilanchal.