The second phase of polling on Friday 16 October covers some of the most sensitive districts that have been hit by Maoist and caste-related violence. The six districts that go to polls are Kaimur (Bhabua), Rohtas, Arwal, Jahanabad, Aurangabad and Gaya.
The EC’s office, along with security forces, is on its toes for the forthcoming polls on Friday. They are taking no chances and have stepped up surveillance while conducting raids in not just the above mentioned districts, but in neighbouring areas as well. On 13 October, CRPF personnel carried out raids in Dhansa which falls under the Rohtas police station and discovered two 7kg landmines along with detonators that were meant to target security personnel. A bomb disposal squad was immediately dispatched to defuse the bombs that could have inflicted serious damage had it not been for the vigilant security personnel.
In a separate raid carried out in Barachatti area in Gaya district, CRPF recovered stocks of ammonium nitrate, a chemical that is used in bomb making. In Deo village of Aurangabad district, the security forces recovered three cane bombs along with detonators. This is in addition to several small arms, ammunition and cash that the police have been recovering on a daily basis, under supervision of the EC’s office.
The above mentioned districts have seen several incidents of violence resulting from caste-related tensions. The Maoist insurgency has been strong in these districts which have been victims of state neglect over several decades. During the 90s, members of Ranvir Sena, promoted by the upper castes, were frequently clashing with other castes and CPI(ML) cadres, in a series of brutal violence from all sides. Unfortunately, all political parties have been exploiting the already tenuous situation prevailing for their own political gains.
The districts have suffered on almost all parameters of development and social justice, as a result, the Maoists have been able to garner support from the rural communities that have been living in abject poverty with little intervention from the state administration. That said, it is also true that since Nitish Kumar first took over as Chief Minister, he has undertaken several measures, though not adequate but still significant, which has resulted in waning support for the Maoists, especially in rural areas, which have traditionally been their stronghold.
As in every election, the Maoists have given a call this time too for people to boycott the polls but its impact is expected to be minimal given the elaborate security measures that have been put in place including air surveillance and special checks, along with intensive patrolling in nearby forest areas to check any attempt to infiltrate the security zone.
Is the PM getting an unfair advantage?
The recent controversy relating to permission given to the Prime Minister for campaigning during the polls has raised several questions on providing a level playing field. In response to a high-powered delegation from the BJP seeking permission for the PM to carry on with his rally on polling day during the first phase of voting, the EC granted permission to proceed with the rallies despite loud and written protests from the Grand Alliance. The opposition has been saying it was giving the PM an unfair advantage. There may be some basis to this argument.
On 12 October, the day of voting in the first phase of elections, parts of the PM’s speech during rallies at Jehanabad and Bhabua, were telecast on several channels. Without doubt, this would have had an impact on several voters who must have watched his speech on electronic media. A large segment of voters turned up after 1 pm to vote, by then his first rally had been widely publicized through TV and social media.
This did give the PM and BJP an unfair advantage, as the TV channels did not cover any other leader or party from the opposing camp. Therefore, while the EC may be correct in allowing the PM’s rally to proceed, his statement that the interpretation of the law must be left to the media and politicians, allowed one side to exploit the opportunity. This is against the spirit of fair play, though perhaps not legally binding. The controversy is likely to come up again whenever future elections are going to be held in phases, therefore, this needs to be further debated between all political parties and some consensus must be arrived at on having a level playing field for all.
Nitish Kumar challenges Modi on corruption issue
Nitish Kumar has been at the receiving end of PM’s constant reference to his association with ‘Jungle Raj’ during most of his speeches. Speaking at an election meeting in Dumaria under the Imamganj constituency, Nitish Kumar challenged the PM on the issue of corruption citing Narendra Modi’s silence and inaction on several scams that have come to light of late including Vyapam and Lalitgate. He asked the people that while his party took immediate action in removing Awadhesh Kaushal by forcing his resignation, what action Narendra Modi had taken against his many tainted party colleagues.
He spoke of how unaccounted cash of Rs 2 crore had been recovered from Giriraj Singh’s house, the MP from Nawada, during the Lok Sabha polls, but instead of taking any action against him, he was rewarded by being made a Minister of State in the central government. He went on to speak about the development measures his party was taking to improve Bihar and what they plan to do, if voted back.
Krishna Chandra of JD(U) to replace tainted Awadhesh Kushwaha in Pipra
JD(U) announced Krishna Chandra as the candidate to stand from Pipra constituency in East Champaran. His name was proposed by the JD(U) poll panel headed by party president Bashistha Narayan Singh. He will be filing his nomination papers today as it’s the last date for nominations for the second phase.
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