Poor voter turnout in Bihar in initial hours (Lead)

Patna, April 16 (Inditop) Less than 10 percent voter turnout was recorded in Bihar during the first three hours of polling for the first phase of general elections that was underway in 13 of the state’s 40 Lok Sabha constituencies Thursday.

“Polling was slow in the early hours but we expect a rise in voter turnout later in the day,” an official of the state election office said.

Polling began at 7 a.m. and by 10 a.m. most constituencies recorded five to eight percent turnout. Only one or two saw nine to 10 percent voters exercising their franchise.

Most Maoist affected areas of the state are going to the polls in the first phase. The rebels of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) have called for boycott of the election.

The constituencies going to polls in the first phase are Gaya, Jehanabad, Aurangabad,

Nawada, Ara, Buxar, Karakat, Maharajganj, Sasaram, Jamui, Saran, Siwan, Gopalganj.

Some cases of violence, clashes, firing between rival group and attempts to capture polling booths were reported from Gaya, Maharajganj, Jehanabad, Karakat, Aurangabad and Jamui although police had shoot at sight orders.

In Gaya, two policemen were killed in a Maoist attack on a polling booth. In Jehanabad, journalists were attacked by booth grabbers and in Maharajganj firing between two rival gangs was reported.

“The state administration has taken adequate measures to check violence during the polls,” Bihar police chief D.N. Gautam said.

He said that 110,000 police personnel, including central paramilitary forces, have been deployed at 19,738 polling booths. Two Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters are also being used for aerial surveillance.

About 17.6 million people are eligible to exercise their franchise, which will decide the electoral fortunes of 223 candidates, including Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad in Saran, central ministers Meira Kumar in Sasaram and Kanti Singh in Karakat.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Janata Dal-United’s (JD-U)Prabhunath Singh and Congress’s Nikhil Kumar are also in the poll fray.

In Siwan and Nawada constituencies, jailed RJD MP Mohammad Shahabuddin’s wife Heena Sahab and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) MP Surajbhan Singh’s wife Veena Devi, respectively, are trying their luck.

Both Shahabuddin and Singh, known criminal-turned-politicians, have been convicted for murder and have been barred from the polls.