Patna: Bihar witnessed a voter turnout of more than 55% till 6 pm during the third and final phase of the state assembly elections on Saturday, according to the Election Commission of India. The polling exercise was largely peaceful, with polls conducted in the flood-prone Seemanchal, Koshi and Mithilanchal regions. The areas are known for being underdeveloped with a high rate of poverty and outward migration.
During the lockdown due to COVID-19, a large chunk of the official number of 21 lakh workers returned to their native villages in this region.
As in the first and second phase, a large number of women and youth – including many first-time voters – cast their votes. In several places youth voters were vocal about joblessness and the lack of employment opportunities. Women expressed concern over rising prices, especially of potatoes, onions, mustard oil and pulses.
Enthusiastic youth turning to polling booths is being widely seen as a sign of a change. The younger lot has been expressing their unhappiness and anger over the failure of the ‘double engine’ government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
A total of 78 assembly seats of the state's 243 constituencies in 15 districts are voting in the third phase. Nearly 2.35 crore voters will decide the electoral fate of over 1,204 candidates. Polling began at 7 am amid high security.
According to the official figures by the Election Commission at 5 pm, 54.17% of the total electorate had exercised their franchise.
Turnouts were high in Kishanganj (57.90)%, Supaul (55.73%), Saharsa (55.50%) and Purnea (55.31%).
In the first phase for 71 assembly seats held on October 28, about 55.68% voting was recorded. The number for the second phase polls in 94 assembly seats held on November 3 was about 55.70%.
Reports mentioned that security personnel have opened fire in the Dhamdaha assembly seat in Purnea district to disperse a group of people trying to influence free and fair polls. At another booth, a clash took place between the police and people after security personnel beat up a voter.
A youth voter was shot dead near a polling booth In Purnea by unidentified criminals.
In neighbouring Araria district, the District Magistrate ordered an FIR against the RJD candidate from Jokihat assembly constituency for violating the model code of conduct.
However, guidelines issued by the ECI for a safe election in view of COVID-19 were openly violated. Voters in urban booths were seen wearing masks and kept a distance between each other. However, in rural areas, where most of the booths are found, there was a lack of social distancing and masks were missing.
ADG police headquarters Jitendar Kumar said no incident of violence has been reported so far. Polling was underway peacefully except instances of minor clashes between rivals.
At some places, the electronic voting machines malfunctioned. However, it was a relatively smoother exercise in a state notorious for election-related violence.
Officials said that voters in over a dozen villages boycotted polls over the lack of development.