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|TOUGH MASTER: Rao oversees polls |
Booth capturing, bogus voters, violence-elections in Bihar have always had something for everyone, so people have always turned out in droves in the past. However, the turnout in the first two rounds of polling this year was markedly low. This raises the question whether it was because of voter apathy or the strict Election Commission, which ensured a security that foxed even the smartest.
Young & Raring
64% of the candidates trying their luck in the first two rounds of elections were aged below 45 years.
314 contestants were in the 25-34 age group while the number of candidates aged 75 and above was only three.
So what if the Election Commission has barred criminals and those with non-bailable warrants against them from contesting elections? As many as 23 wives of jailed politicians and others on the run contested in the first two rounds of the elections.
CRACKING THE WHIP
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| FAMILY IN REVOLT: Sadhu (left) and Subhash |
If the first two rounds of voting for the assembly elections in Bihar have passed off without violence or blood-letting, the credit goes to one man: K.J. Rao. The Election Commission's special adviser to Bihar seems to have succeeded in a situation where even the boorish T.N. Seshan, the former chief election commissioner, had failed. Armed with virtually unlimited power and backed by 600 companies of the paramilitary forces, Rao has been ruthless with the state's rogue politicians, most of whom are livid with him. But Rao has his admirers too. Says JD(U) spokesman Shambhu Sharan Shrivastawa: "He has broken the backbone of some people who have treated Bihar as a fiefdom."
Look at the list of the powerful who fell foul of Rao's rule book: RJD President Lalu Prasad Yadav was booked for moving around in a vehicle without a number plate; former chief minister Rabri Devi was hauled up for arriving in a motorcade to file her nomination; a non-bailable warrant was issued against Union Minister Jaiprakash Narain Yadav for allegedly using his influence to get his brother freed from police custody; Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan was booked for trying to exploit religious and communal sentiments by advocating a Muslim chief minister; and JD(U) leaders Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar had firs filed against them for violation of the model code of conduct. Rao's actions, swift and harsh, had instant impact on the first two rounds of polls. Ask Rao, who has also overseen election in Jammu and Kashmir, and he says the poll in the border state was like a walk in the park compared to Bihar. "In Kashmir, we had to worry about terrorists and the topography but here there are too many things-violence, bogus voters and booth capturing," he says.
The widespread crackdown has sent shivers down the spines of those who till now feared none. The Election Commission estimates that about 7 per cent of the state's voters are bogus and even before the first round of polling on October 18, over half a million bogus names had been deleted from the voters' list. The last time a poll commissioner bared his fangs, Lalu had the last laugh because the voters believed him when he said Seshan represented the Brahminical order that was inimical to the forces of social justice. Lalu, of course, believes that the voters will be convinced once again. But most think he is living in a make-believe world.
-By Farzand Ahmed with Sanjay Kumar Jha
In-laws have traditionally been a burden for most politicians. Sadhu Yadav and Subhash Yadav, brothers of Rabri Devi, are proving to be no exception. To quell a revolt in the RJD, Lalu had denied tickets to both of them. But the duo shot back by declaring that they would be fielding their wives in the family's fiefdom in north Bihar. Subhash, a Rajya Sabha member, declared that in view of the growing demands from Mirganj constituency, his wife Renu Devi would be fighting the elections. Sadhu Yadav, a Lok Sabha member, too decided that his wife Indira would be the RJD candidate from Gopalganj. In the elections held in February this year, Indira and Rabri's eldest brother Prabhunath Yadav had contested from Gopalganj and
Mirganj respectively and both had lost the seats. On the other hand, Lalu's youngest brother-in-law Subhash, for whom Rabri has a soft corner, had wrangled 40 tickets for himself and his henchmen. All of them lost. What really tilted the balance against his in-laws was the fact that the RJD lost power in the state for the first time in 10 years.
Elections are proving to be the boom time for private aircraft operators. The election symbol of Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party is the bicycle but there is no point reminding party leaders of this little fact. They fly chartered class from Lucknow to Varanasi during the day, only to board private helicopters for their onward travel. Never mind that a chartered aircraft costs over Rs 80,000 a day and several helicopters are piling up a bill of nearly Rs 2 lakh every day. When it is in the name of socialism, why let a few lakh rupees stand in the way?
The second round of polling on October 26 sealed the fate of a whole lot of "stalwarts", but no constituency is as eagerly watched as Raghopur in Vaishali district, from where former chief minister Rabri Devi is contesting. Keeping their fingers crossed along with Rabri will be former assembly speaker Sadanand Singh of the Congress, Pashupati Kumar, the younger brother of Paswan and Upendra Kushwaha, the opposition leader.
All parties claim they want to give more representation to women and minorities but most don't even prop up enough candidates from these sections
The RJD fielded 97 candidates in the first two phases but only four were women.
Lalu wears his sympathy for minorities on his sleeve but gave them no more than 10 seats.