One person was killed and dozens injured in sporadic incidents of violence that marked the urban local bodies’ elections across Bihar on Sunday.
About 64% of the electorate exercised its right to franchise at 5,306 booths set up for elections to seven municipal corporations, 31 nagar parishads and 63 nagar panchayats, in which a total of 13,027 candidates are in the fray.
Being the first major electoral exercise after massive victory of RJD-JD (U)-Congress Grand Alliance (GA) in the November 2015 Bihar assembly, the municipal elections are important in that they will provide an indication of the popular mood ahead of the 2019 general elections.
For, even though the civic polls are not contested on party symbols, political activists of different parties plunge into the electoral arena in their individual capacity and procure the support of the rank and file of their respective political outfits.
According to the state election commission (SEC), more than 21,000 poll personnel, including armed jawans, were deployed to ensure peaceful, free and fair polling. But the day witnessed malfunctioning of electronic voting machines, clashes between the groups of contestants and subsequent damaging of EVMs.
“Faulty EVMs were promptly replaced with functional ones, while polling was rescheduled at a few booths where EVMS were damaged by supporters of the contestants,” said a press communique from the SEC.
Reports said one Vikram Rai, father of Dharmendra Rai, contesting from Marhua was injured grievously and died in hospital, following a group clash that broke out at a booth in Chapra (north Bihar). Many suffered injuries as supporters of two contestants indulged in violence.
The SEC postponed the election for ward number 18 of the Ara Municipal Corporation after a candidate, Bhagmani Devi, died just before commencement of the polling. She was ward councillor for the past 10 years. Elections for nagar panchayats like Koilwar, Piro, Jagdishpur, Bihiya and Shahpur in south-central Bihar passed off peacefully.
Barring some incidents of clashes and disturbances, polling for civic polls remained peaceful in Bhagalpur division of south eastern Bihar. There was no report of any major untoward incident from Banka and Bhagalpur districts of this division.
In Naugachia subdivision of this district, polling could not be held at booth number two of ward number three, located at GB College, following brick batting between two groups of people. The EVM at the polling station was damaged by people involved in the clash.
DIG, eastern range, Vikas Vaibhav, said the polling in those booths would take place tomorrow. A section of people resorted to pelting of stones on a polling party as they found their names missing from the electoral roll.
Reports said voting at booth no 46 of Mojahidpur area of Bhagalpur city was held up for some time in morning following allegations that names of many electors were missing from the list.
A youth identified as Ritu Raj was detained at a booth for raising slogan in favour of Pakistan. Bhagalpur SSP Manoj Kumar said it was suspected the detained youth in order to give vent to his anger over missing names in voters list did the act. He was released later, the SSP added.
Reports said police resorted to firing in the air to control a crowd of protesters at a booth of ward number four, while a mild lathicharge by the police was reported from Ramnagar area of Siwan.
(With inputs from Avijit Biswas in Bhagalpur and Prashat Ranjan in Ara)