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Summary of the fourth phase of Bihar elections

November 2, 2015

Like in the third phase of polling, the 57.59% voter turnout in the fourth phase of elections on November 1 was almost three per cent higher than that registered in 2010 assembly elections in the seven districts: East Champaran, West Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Gopalganj, Siwan, and Sheohar. However, the turnout was only fractionally higher than that was seen in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which was 57.33% in the region. In all, 1,47,23,034 voters turned out to cast their votes to seal the fate of 776 candidates including 57 women.

An analysis of 4th Phase of Bihar Elections

The turnout of voters in this phase, for 55 assembly seats, is the highest registered thus far in all the four rounds of polling. Incidentally, the voting percentage had dipped significantly to 53.32% in the third phase after 57% voter turnout in the first phase and 55% in the second.

Women’s Participation in the Fourth Phase

The encouraging trend of more women coming out to vote continued in this phase of polling, too. The percentage of women voters (60.40 %) was the highest thus far. Significantly, the gap between the turnout of men and women voters was over six per cent as compared to just 1.5% in the third phase. In both the first and second phase, the gap was 5%.

Comparative Study on Voter Turnout

Among the seven districts, East Champaran district recorded the highest voter turnout (59.96%) in the fourth phase. This was five per cent higher than the number voters registered in the 2010 assembly elections in the district. It was also three per cent higher than the total voters registered in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections here. The highest turnout of 63.55% was registered in the Dhaka assembly constituency in the district from where the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Faisal Rahman is pitted against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Pawan Kumar Jaiswal, who had won from the same seat as an Independent candidate in 2010.

East Champaran was closely followed by West Champaran that registered 59.17% voter turnout, which was though less than the 60.59% turnout in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, still about 1% higher than that in 2010.

Gopalganj district, with 58.90% turnout, was the third in line. It saw over five per cent increase in turnout as compared to both the 2010 assembly polls and 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The voter turnout in Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Sheohar and Siwan was 56.83%, 56.09%, 56.05% and 54.31% respectively.

Incidentally, despite showing an improvement upon the turnout of 2010 assembly elections, the voting percentage dipped in Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi, Sheohar and West Champaran when compared to the voting in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections in these districts. In Siwan district, the turnout was lesser than what was registered in 2010 and 2014.

Like in the third round, the BJP (largest constituent of National Democratic Alliance) has much in stake in the fourth round as well where it is contesting 42 of the 55 seats, leaving only 13 seats for other alliance partners.

In the last assembly elections, the NDA had swept the polls in the region winning 51 of the 55 seats while three Independents, too, had won in the region. At that time, the BJP had emerged victorious on 26 seats while the Janata Dal (United), which was the BJP’s partner then, had won 25 seats. But political equations have drastically changed after the BJP-JD(U) split in 2013. While the JD(U) is contesting 21 seats despite having won 25 seats in 2010 assembly polls, its Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) ally, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, is contesting 26 seats despite winning only one seat in 2010. Another constituent of the Mahagathbandhan, the Congress party, had fielded 8 candidates in the region. It, however, had failed to open its account in the region in 2010.

The NDA’s winning trend in the region was carried forward to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, too, when it made a clean sweep and led in 53 of the 55 assembly segments in the region.

The fourth phase was crucial for the BJP not only to retain its existing seats but also improve on them to establish a lead against its rivals in an election that is being largely perceived to be a closely fought contest.

FIR Against Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) Candidate

In a first in 2015 assembly elections, a first information report (FIR) was registered against the Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) – an NDA constituent – candidate Lovely Anand for obstructing the voting process at polling station number 50 of the Sheohar assembly constituency. Incidentally, Lovely Anand is one of the handful of women candidates (only 7%) contesting the elections. The polling, however, resumed at the polling station after the security agencies and polling authorities and observers held discussions with the local villagers. In all, 57% voting was registered during the day.

It may be mentioned that Lovely Anand is a former member of Parliament and wife of Anand Mohan, who is in jail, serving a sentence for the murder of G. Krishnaiah the then district magistrate of Gopalganj in 1994. Incidentally, 33% candidates in the fourth phase have criminal records. Lovely Anand is pitted against Ajit Jha, who is the son of Samajwadi Party leader and former union minister Raghunath Jha, and JD (U)’s Sarfuddin as well as ex-MLA Thakur Ratnakar (Independent).

Two helicopters and three drones were deployed to check any untoward incident, particularly, in the naxal-hit regions in these districts. The election commission claimed that polling was peaceful in the fourth phase.

Ugly Exchange of Rhetoric in the Run-up to the Elections

However, the run-up to the fourth phase of polling did see some high-voltage campaigning and bitter exchange of words between rival leaders. Ostensibly, in a bid to polarise voters along communal lines, the BJP chief Amit Shah made a controversial remark of firecrackers going off in Pakistan if the BJP were to lose the polls in Bihar. The RJD supremo Lalu Yadav retorted and termed Shah “narbhakshi” (cannibal) and “paagal” (mad) that earned him an FIR. Besides, while Lalu’s son Tej Pratap said that Prime Minister Modi would go mad after November 8 ,when the results will be out, Modi, too, was not left behind in this bitter war of words and accused Lalu of turning his home district Gopalganj into a “mini Chambal”.

Like in the third phase, when voters had boycotted polling at four polling centres, similar situation arose in seven polling centres: two each in East Champaran, West Champaran and Siwan districts and one in Sitamarhi district. Even in the first phase of polling, voters had boycotted polling at nine polling centres, while in the second phase, polling was boycotted in 13 centres.

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