Patna: Not a single finger was chopped and not a single booth saw a boycott. The threat of the Maoists was simply ignored by the voters in all the four Lok Sabha constituencies of Gaya, Aurangabad, Jamui and Nawada which went to vote on Thursday. All these constituencies in central Bihar are known as Naxal-affected areas where once the ultra-Left groups ran a parallel administration and scared away the forces.
With the impact of Naxals waning, the people have gained enough courage to be involved in the festival of democracy. The turnout was definitely low and voting was slow at most of the places, but there was no report of any violence thanks to the presence of the paramilitary forces. In all, 44 candidates are in the fray in these four constituencies with a total electorate of 70.37 lakh. In view of the possible movement of Maoists, 41,000 pairs of boots had been deployed on the ground. However, the efforts of the Election Commission by deploying observers to facilitate a high turnout did not yield a great result.
Two IAF choppers were stationed at Jamui and Gaya for recon, surveillance and movement of security personnel. Of these four, two constituencies attracted more attention for the high-profile candidates. In Jamui, sitting LJP MP Chirag Paswan is seeking a second term while in Gaya, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi is trying his luck to make a debut entry in Parliament. Manjhi, who formed his own Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular party (HAM-S) in 2014 is the grand alliance's candidate. His party got three seats in the seat-sharing in the alliance and another of his candidates is trying his luck in Aurangabad.
Till 4 pm, the voting percentage was 50 percent on average, with Jamui recording over 53 percent and Gaya 46 percent. Aurangabad and Nawada reported polling of 48.75 and 47 percent respectively. Among them, the highest voting was registered in Jamui, the severe Naxal zone. Chirag is highly confident of his victory saying he would win by a bigger margin this time while giving credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his father and founder of the LJP Ram Vilas Paswan. The senior Paswan is not contesting the election this time owing to age- and health-related issues, but has been assured by the NDA that he will be adjusted in the Rajya Sabha.
Manjhi was a little shaky and complained of the malfunctioning of over 50 EVMs. He was also critical of the Election Commission for holding the election on Chaiti Chhath, an occasion he said was largely observed by the poor people, whereas women fast. He said this was one of main reasons for the low turnout. But Manjhi used the election day to shower praise on Modi calling him a person with the right vision and perspective. "He is doing a good job but unfortunately he is in the wrong company (RSS) and the Sangh is forcing him to commit wrongs. He comes from backward society and he is an honest person," said Manjhi about Modi, who came to campaign for NDA candidate Vijay Manjhi of the JD(U).
Modi also stumped for Paswan in Jamui while Congress president Rahul Gandhi held a meeting in Gaya asking people to vote for former chief minister Manjhi. Manjhi, who is a habitual side-changer, has always been suspected for his loyalty. Not long ago, he was in the NDA but joined the grand alliance in the hope of getting more seats. Following his praise of Modi, political observers suggest that he may change sides after the poll results. Otherwise too, it is apprehended that he might not be able to open HAM-S's account in this election.
Overall, poll analysts guessed that NDA has the edge in the first phase and might win all four seats. In Aurangabad, the sitting BJP MP Sushil Kumar Singh is challenged by Upendra Prasad of the HAM-S while in Nawada the contest is between two greenhorns — Chandan Kumar of LJP and Vibha Devi of RJD. The absence of the Congress in Aurangabad was felt by all as it was the traditional stronghold of the party but in seat-sharing, the Congress was not allotted this seat. As a result, its candidate Nikhil Kumar Singh, a former governor and retired IPS officer whose grandfather, father and wife also represented this seat many times, was denied a ticket. In Nawada, LJP's Chandan Kumar is the brother of don-turned-politician Surajbhan Singh while Vibha Devi is the wife of Rajballabh Yadav, who is in jail after being convicted in a rape case. Nawada was last time won by Giriraj Singh who has been shifted to Begusarai.
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Updated Date: Apr 11, 2019 18:47:41 IST