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1st phase Bihar polls today, Nitish vs Lalu: the ballot battle begins
Patna, Oct 20 (IANS/AGENCIES):
Published on 21 Oct. 2010 12:13 AM IST
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The month-long elections to the Bihar assembly kick off Thursday with the first of the state’s 243 constituencies going to the polls to decide if chief minister Nitish Kumar will succeed in bringing the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) back to power.
Security arrangements have been finalised to ensure that nothing goes wrong and candidates anxiously wait for D-day as the stage gets set in the 10,454 polling booths, mostly in rural areas.
At stake will not just be Nitish Kumar’s future but also the political reputations of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who has tied up again with Ram Vilas Paswan and his LJP
The Congress, which is fighting on its own, will also be looking to break in.
The main electoral planks on which all parties have asked for votes for are development, caste and minority issues. All factors will be in play as votes are cast in the poverty stricken Kosi-Seemanchal and Mithilanchal belt.
According to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW), a group of more than 1,200 NGOs, as many as 154 candidates in the first round of polls are facing criminal charges.
Of these, 97 have cases of murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, extortion, causing hurt by dangerous weapons and dacoity against them, the report said.
The entire process of voting would be videographed, Additional Chief Electoral Officer Kumar Anshumali. For the first time, he said, the Election Commission has introduced live webcast of the voting process from 20 per cent of the booths directly to be monitored by the district election officers, the office of Chief Electoral Officer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh and the Election Commission in New Delhi.
Amongst the candidates with criminal records is gangster Shankar Singh of LJP.
There are also several wives of convicted criminals turned politicians contesting the elections -- Bima Bharti, wife of gangster Awadesh Mandal, who is contesting on a JD-U ticket, Congress nominee Lovely Anand, wife of criminal-turned-politician Anand Mohan, and Ranjeet Ranjan, wife of former MP Rajiv Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav, sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Marxist leader Ajit Sarkar.
Being the first round of the first phased election, Thursday will be a litmus test for all the parties in the battle for the ballot. While the NDA has 142 seats in the present assembly -- 87 for JD-U and 55 for BJP -- the RJD and LJP lag far behind. The RJD has a strength of 54 and the LJP 11. The Congress has nine seats.
After Oct 21, the next rounds in the elections will be held on Oct 24, Oct 28, Nov 1, 9 and 20. Votes will be counted on Nov 24.

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