Sporadic violence mars Bihar second phase polls

"About 58.8 percent of the electorate had cast their votes by 5 p.m.," an official said.
According to police, there were reports of firing between supporters of rival candidates in Jehanabad, Aurangabad, Sheohar, East Champaran and clashes between rival groups in over dozen places in the state.

Police also confirmed reports of attempt to rig polls and snatch the ballots at several places. "Police have arrested 791 people for disrupting polls," a police officer said.

The polling began at 7 a.m. Voters, particularly women in colourful dresses, were seen lining up at polling booths despite a boycott call by the Maoists. Bihar police chief Neelmani said that security forces, including central paramilitary forces, have been deployed at polling stations to ensure free and fair polls.

Some 27 extra deputy superintendents of police have been deputed in Maoist-affected districts. The rebels have issued a poll boycott call and threatened to disrupt the elections.

The state administration sealed the India-Nepal border and deployed security forces at all vulnerable points. Voting took place in 57 blocks of 37 districts to elect 27,905 members to village council posts. There were 94,776 candidates in the fray in the second phase.

Nearly 2.75 lakh people whom the police term as 'troublemakers and habitual offenders' have signed bonds promising not to disrupt the polling process, a police officer said. The state election commission has made it clear that if any candidate is attacked or intimidated, his rival will be named in the police report.

The first round of the panchayat polls saw a police officer being killed in a Maoist attack in Jamui district Wednesday. At least seven people were injured in clashes between rival groups in various parts of the state, an official said.

Elections in Bihar were once known for violence and booth capturing. In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, 74 people were killed in poll-related violence. About 20 people were killed in the 2004 general elections and 158 during the 2001 panchayat elections. The 10-phased polls for 262,000 panchayat posts would end May 28.

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