Multi-cornered contests in Round One

Bihar poll: Security measures in place for one crore voters to exercise their franchise today

The fate of 635 candidates, including Bihar Congress president Choudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser, Lovely Anand, Ranjeet Ranjan and Nitish Mishra, will be sealed after polling ends on October 21. Altogether 468 companies of Central paramilitary forces have been pressed into service to ensure a free and fair election.

“Sector magistrates have been deployed at all the polling booths. Besides, orders have been issued for video-photography at sensitive booths to maintain transparency,” said Bihar’s Additional Chief Electoral Officer, Kumar Anshumali.

Director General of Police (DGP) Neelmani too expressed his satisfaction about the security arrangements made to ensure a fair poll. “Helicopters will also be pressed into service to keep a tab on trouble-makers. Those found involved in rigging or booth-capturing will be apprehended and put under speedy trial so that they are convicted within three months of their arrest,” said Neelmani.

Interestingly, the Congress and the BSP are contesting all the 47 seats, while the ruling combine - JD (U) is contesting 26 and the BJP 21 seats in the first phase. Likewise, Lalu Prasad’s RJD, which has entered into an alliance with LJP, is contesting on 31 seats while leaving the rest 16 constituencies for Paswan’s outfit. The CPM has put up candidates at seven seats, CPI 11, CPI-ML (Liberation) 17 and Sharad Pawar’s NCP 33 seats.

More than one crore voters will exercise their franchise at 10,454 polling centres on Thursday. Multi-cornered contests are lined up in all the 47 seats in eight districts –  Saharsa, Madhepura, Madhubani, Supaul, Purnia, Araria, Katihar and Kishanganj.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi have campaigned for Congress nominees, the NDA has roped in BJP stalwart L K Advani, NDA convener and JD (U) president Sharad Yadav. Left leaders like Prakash Karat, A B Bardhan, Dipankar Bhattacharya and BSP supremo Mayawati too have been canvassing for their respective party candidates.

Meanwhile, border areas with Nepal were sealed on Wednesday in view of Thursday’s polling. All the eight districts share a porous border with the Himalayan kingdom, and hence extra vigil is being maintained in view of the Maoists’ call to boycott Bihar polls. “Intensive checking drive at Indo-Nepal border is going on by the jawans of Seema Suraksha Bal (SSB),” said Assistant Commandant B R Chouhan. The six-phase poll, which begins on October 21, will conclude on November 20. Counting will take place on November 24.

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