Around 30 to 35 percent voting was recorded by 2.30 pm Thursday in the third phase of parliamentary elections in 11 of Bihar's 40 constituencies. Voting was mostly peaceful, barring a few incidents of violence and attempts to capture polling booths.
According to state election office sources, polling was brisk in some constituencies and slow in others. "We have information that around 30 to 35 per cent eligible voters had cast their ballots in first seven hours," officials said.
Officials said that polling was reported to be slow in early hours but later picked up. "In the first three hours, only 10 percent voter turnout was recorded," an official said.
A security man was injured in Katihar constituency, about 200 km from the state capital, when some people attempted to capture a booth. Police had to fire five rounds to disperse the mob. Reports of clashes between activists of rival parties were received from Kishanganj, Begusarai, Banka, Purnia, Munger and Araria constituencies.
Additional Director General of Police Neelmani said polling was so far peaceful, with no major violence or casualty reported.
Reports reaching in Patna said that residents in dozens of villages boycotted the elections in over half a dozen constituencies including Madhepura, Banka, Munger and Supaul to protest lack of development and the apathy of local leaders and officials in fulfilling their demands for drinking water, electricity, roads, bridges, schools and health centres.
About 15 million voters are eligible to choose their MPs from among 203 candidates, including 12 women.
This phase is crucial for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as it is the battle to prove who will emerge as the strong man of Bihar - Nitish Kumar, Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) or Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP).
Three constituencies are considered pivotal for Nitish Kumar: Munger, where his confidant and second-in-command Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lalan Singh is contesting; Banka, where it is important for Janata Dal-United's (JD-U) Damodar Rawat to defeat party rebel Digvijay Singh, and Kishanganj, which has elected Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Shahnawaz Hussain, but where Nitish Kumar forced the BJP to leave the seat to the JD-U to prove his support among Muslims.
The JD-U's Syed Mahmud Ashraf is taking on central minister Mohammad Taslimuddin (RJD) in the constituency which has 67.7 percent Muslim voters.
All eyes are also on Bhagalpur, where Shahnawaz Hussain is now contesting, and Madhepura, also considered a stronghold of Lalu Prasad, where JD-U's national president Sharad Yadav is fighting against RJD's Ravindra Charan Yadav.
The remaining fourth and last round of polls in Bihar will be held for the remaining three seats May 7. The first and second phases - each seeing polling in 13 seats - were held April 16 and April 23.