Patna, May 7 (IANS) Polling in Bihar was mostly peaceful but slow Thursday morning, with only 15 to 18 percent turnout recorded in the first five hours in the three seats where voting was underway in the fourth phase of elections.
According to Additional General of Police Neelmani, polling was going on peacefully, with no violence reported.
Sources in the state election office said nearly 15 to 18 percent polling was recorded. The voting percentage is likely to pick up in the afternoon, they added.
However, long queues of voters had been seen at some polling stations here much before 7 a.m., when voting started.
About 4.89 million voters in the three constituencies - Patna Saheb, Patliputra and Nalanda - are eligible to exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 57 candidates.
Neelmani said that security has been beefed up as some pockets of rural Patna and Nalanda districts have been identified as Maoist-affected.
'Anti-landmine vehicles have been provided to all the police stations in Maoist-affected areas,' he said.
This phase is crucial for Railway Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad as well as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U).
In Patliputra, the RJD chief is locked in a fight with friend-turned-foe Ranjan Prasad Yadav of the JD-U. Congress candidate Vijay Kumar Yadav may attract some Yadav votes, benefiting the JD-U.
Lalu Prasad is also contesting from Saran constituency that went to the polls April 16.
In Nalanda, the contest is between JD-U's Kaushalendra Kumar, who was handpicked by Nitish Kumar, and Lok Janshakti Party's (LJP) Satish Kumar.
Nitish Kumar seems confident of victory in his home constituency and has been canvassing for votes for Kaushalendra Kumar by highlighting all the development work he has carried out as chief minister.
Lalu Prasad's RJD is in alliance with Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP, with the combine said to be enjoying overwhelming support from the Yadavs, a powerful backward caste, and Paswans, a powerful Dalit caste. Besides, they also enjoy claim support from large sections of the Muslim community, other backward castes (OBCs) and Dalits.
For the first time, Lalu Prasad and Paswan are trying to win over a section of upper castes, mainly Brahmins and Rajputs, who are said to be unhappy with Nitish Kumar.
Voters in Patna Saheb constituency will choose between celebrities Shatrughan 'Shotgun' Sinha and Shekhar 'Shaker' Suman.
Shekhar Suman, an actor and talk-show 'Movers and Shakers' host is contesting for the Congress, while Sinha - a Bollywood star and a judge of 'The Shotgun Show' TV talent programme - is running for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Both have many things in common besides having made their mark in the entertainment industry. The two are sons of the soil and both belong to the upper Kayasth castes, which comprise over 500,000 votes in the constituency.
However, Shekhar Suman is a fresher in politics compared to Sinha, who has been a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government.