56 percent turnout in fourth phase of Bihar panchayat polls


Patna: Ignoring a boycott call of Maoists, nearly 56 percent voters cast their ballots Saturday in the fourth round of Bihar’s 10-phase panchayat polls which were by and large peaceful, bar some disturbances in seven districts.

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Additional Director General of Police Rajwardhan Sharma said: “Polls were largely peaceful except for some attempt by trouble makers to create disturbance.”

There were reports of police firing at two places to disperse trouble makers, attack on police personnel, and clashes between rival groups at a few places, Sharma said.

According to the state election commission officials, about 55-56 percent of the electorate cast their votes by 5 p.m. “The final figure on polling percentage is likely to increase after detailed reports come in by late evening,” an official said.

Polling started at 7 a.m. and voters, particularly women and youths, were seen queueing up at voting booths despite a boycott call of the Maoists.

The Maoists have issued a poll boycott call and threatened to disrupt the elections.

Police confirmed reports of poll disturbances in Aurangaad, Jehanaad, Shekhpura, Katihar, Gaya, Darbhanga and Muzaffarpur districts. “In Aurangaad, some trouble makers attacked a police official in a bid to grab a booth but the attempt was foiled,” a police official said.

Police arrested 770 troublemakers and seized 156 vehicles across the state to ensure free and fair polls.

An official in the state election commission said voting took place in 62 blocks, 19 of which were Maoist-hit, in 37 districts to elect 27,928 village council members. There were 93,560 candidates in the fray in the fourth round.

Till date, nearly 3.89 lakh “troublemakers and habitual offenders” have signed bonds promising not to disrupt the panchayat polls in Bihar, police said.

Early this month, the state election commission made it clear that if a candidate was attacked or intimidated in the panchayat polls, his rival will be named in the police report.

The first round of Bihar’s 10-phase panchayat polls April 20 saw a police Officer and a woman voter being killed in a Maoist attack in Jamui district. Around half a dozen people were injured in clashes between rival groups in various parts of the state, officials said.

The second and the third rounds of the election also witnessed sporadic incidents of violence.

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-phase polls for 262,000 panchayat posts will end May 28.