Patna: The battle for Bihar enters into its second phase on Friday with voters set to decide the fate of 456 candidates in 32 constituencies spread over six Naxal-hit districts, posing a big challenge to security forces.
The districts are Kaimur, Rohtas, Arwal, Jehanabad, Aurangabad and Gaya.
After the completion of the first phase of polling in 49 seats, the second phase saw NDA sharpening attack on the grand secular alliance in the backdrop of a sting video that purportedly showed a minister accepting Rs 4 lakh bribe.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi grabbed the 'windfall' with both hands and flagged it at his rallies in Jehanabad and Bhubua on October 12, a day after the damning video showed up on the 113th birth anniversary of socialist icon Jayaprakash Narayan.
The second phase polling constitutes a great challenge for the security personnel as the six districts are heavily affected by Naxalism. In view of the security concerns, voting time has been curtailed by one hour and two hours in as many as 23 Constituencies.
Additional Chief Electoral Officer R Lakshamanan said that while voting would start at 7 AM in all 32 constituencues it would end at 3 PM in 11 constituencies and at 4 PM at 12 others. Only 9 seats would have scheduled voting from 7 AM to 5 PM.
A total of 86,13,870 electors are expected to decide the fate of 456 candidates, 32 out of whom are women. There are 9,119 polling stations.
A total of 993 companies of Central Para Military forces and state police would be deployed on the day to ensure peaceful voting.
As many as 334 companies would be in service in Gaya, 201 in Rohtas and 193 in Aurangabad.
While contest on all the seats is intense, the battle at Imamganj (reserved SC seat) would be keenly watched where former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi of HAM is locked in a straight contest with the Speaker of the outgoing assembly Uday Narain Chaudhary of JD(U). Chaudhary is a five-term MLA from the seat.
Manjhi is also trying his luck from Makhdumpur seat in Jehanabad too.
Senior BJP leader and former minister Prem Kumar (Gaya town), former state unit chief of the saffron party Gopal Narayan Singh (Nabinagar) and state minister Jay Kumar Singh (Dinara) are among those whose fate would be decided in this phase.
The stakes are high for the anti-BJP alliance in this
phase as most of the 32 seats had gone to JD(U) in the last elections.
In 2010, JD(U) had won 19 seats followed by BJP 10, RJD 2 and Independent 1.
This time JD(U) and RJD are contesting 13 seats each, while Congress has its candidates in the remaining six.
From NDA, half of the seats in this phase are being contested by nominees of BJP's allies---LJP, HAM and RLSP.
While the HAM is contesting 7 seats, including two from where Jitan Ram Manjhi is in the fray, RLSP of Union Minister of State for HRD Upendra Kushwaha has fielded candidates in six constituencies, and LJP three. BJP has put up candidates in the rest 16 seats.
Out of the 32 seats, 7 are reserved for Scheduled Castes where the popularity of Ramvilas Paswan and Manjhi would be tested.
A total of 144 cases of defacement of public property registered at different places along with 54 cases of misuse of vehicles (beacon, light, flag).
On the law and order front, 47 bombs and 133 arms/weapons were seized and 9,442 non-bailable warrants executed.