Polling is under way in 78 Assembly segments of Bihar in the third and final phase of state elections on Saturday in which 2.35 crore voters are eligible to decide the fate of 1,204 candidates.
Casting of votes began at 7am at all 33,782 polling stations where as many EVM sets and VVPAT machines have been installed and paramilitary forces deployed to maintain order, officials said.
Voting is simultaneously taking place for the Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha seat in West Champaran district where a byelection has been necessitated by the death of the sitting JD(U) MP, Baidyanath Mahto.
Of the total 2.35 crore voters in the 78 Assembly segments, spread across 15 districts of north Bihar, 1.23 crore are men, 1.12 crore are women while 894 are in the “third gender” category, according to statistics provided by the Election Commission.
In addition, re-poll is being held at two polling stations of Hisua Assembly segment in Nalanda district where votes were cast in the second phase on November 3, the Election Commission said.
It said the re-poll has been necessitated by the EVMs getting damaged in a road accident.
Among the candidates in the fray, 37 belong to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U), 35 to the BJP, while five are contesting on tickets of junior NDA ally Vikassheel Insaan Party and one from the Hindustani Awam Morcha.
The candidates of the JD(U)-BJP include the Assembly speaker and 12 members of the state cabinet.
The main opposition RJD is fighting 46 seats in the final phase, while its ally, Congress, is in the fray in 25. Ultra-Left outfit CPI(ML), which has joined the RJD-led Grand Alliance along with CPI and CPI(M), is contesting five seats in the final phase.
A notable Congress candidate in this phase is Subhashini Yadav (30), daughter of veteran socialist leader Sharad Yadav, who is making her debut from Bihariganj, which falls under Madhepura Lok Sabha seat, represented by her father a number of times.
Chirag Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party is in the fray on 42 seats, including Govindganj, which it holds and where it is pitted against the BJP, which it claims to be supporting while being opposed to the JD(U).
Headed by fiery Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi, the AIMIM had registered a stunning victory in Kishanganj last year, defeating the Congress candidate whose son’s election to Lok Sabha had necessitated the bypoll.
The AIMIM is in the fray in more than a dozen seats, mostly in the Kosi-Seemanchal region, which is densely populated and has a high percentage of Muslim residents.
The NDA hopes that the party’s ability to cut into Muslim votes will weaken the RJD and help the JD(U)-BJP combine.
Voting for the first phase was held on October 28 and for the second phase on November 3. Results will be out on November 10.