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Polling hours reduced

patna Updated: Nov 09, 2010 01:22 IST
Ashok Mishra
Ashok Mishra
Hindustan Times
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The duration of polling on Tuesday has been reduced by an hour in Bihar’s 14 assembly constituencies that are vulnerable to Maoist strikes.

Election Commission officials said the polling would be held between 7 am and 4 pm.

The 14 are part of the 35 constituencies spread over eight districts that go to the polls on November 9, the fifth and the final phase of the Bihar elections.

Justifying the shortened duration, an Election Commission official said: “Due to the geographical conditions and impending Maoist threats, it will be very difficult for the polling parties to return with the electronic voting machines safely to the strong-rooms.”

The Maoists have again given a poll-boycott call, as they did in the four previous phases. But in each of the four rounds, their call became a hollow cry.

Nearly half the 35 constituencies, spread over Bhojpur, Patna, Nawada, Gaya, Jehanabad, Nalanda, Arwal and Sheikhpura districts, have a strong Maoist presence. Though no major violent incident was reported during the campaign period, the ultras blew up a railway station building in Satbahini near Dehri-on-Sone on Monday.

Director general of police (DGP) Neelmani said the central paramilitary forces and armed police personnel would be deployed at all Maoist-hit polling stations. “We have sealed the borders with Jharkhand. Special Task Force commandos and senior police officials will keep air surveillance with the help of four helicopters,” he said.

The DGP said the police would use phone-line tracking technology and Google Earth to keep a watch on the movements of Maoists in the forests and hills. Satellite phones have been provided to policemen in the affected areas, he said.

Chief electoral officer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh said more than 8 million people, including about 3.5 million women, would vote at 9,143 polling stations to decide the fate of the 490 candidates.