Enthusiasm was this constituency’s second name on Vote Thursday.
Urban and rural Hazaribagh braved the blistering sun and came out in decent numbers to raise a 61.01 per cent toast to democracy in the second round of Lok Sabha elections in Jharkhand. In 2009, the seat had polled 53.08 per cent.
Town residents were more prompt this time. By 10am, the voting percentage had reached 21 in Sadar areas, while rural Hazaribagh dragged its feet with barely six. In neighbourhoods such as Boddom Bazaar, Okni Mohalla, Suresh Colony, Korrah, Matwari and Heerabag, booths registered 35 per cent till noon. The second half saw a lull though.
“The awareness campaigns have paid rich dividends. Urban voters came out in good numbers. The polling percentage has improved,” said Ram Kishore Prasad, a retired government employee.
At booth No. 158, Yadunath Girls’ High School, septuagenarian voter Uday Shankar said he had keenly studied the profile of candidates.
“Achi baat hai ki padhe-likhe log ab rajneeti mein aa rahe hai. Hazaribagh ne iss bar rah dikha di hai (It is a positive sign that qualified people are coming to politics. Hazaribagh has set an example for the country),” he summarised the town mood.
The Hazaribagh Lok Sabha seat is divided into five Assembly segments — Hazaribagh Sadar, Barhi, Barkagaon, Mandu and Ramgarh — from where 14.80 lakh people were expected to cast their votes.
Frontrunner in the race is BJP’s candidate Jayant Sinha.
The Harvard-returned son of sitting MP Yashwant Sinha accused his rivals, particularly party defector and Ajsu candidate Loknath Mahto, of wooing voters with “daru (liquor), murga (chicken) and khasi (mutton)”.
“I toured Mandu, Hazaribagh Sadar, Ramgarh and Patratu areas, where I noticed my rivals violating the mode code of conduct. At Hupad village (where Jayant cast his vote along with his parents), they (read Mahto’s men) distributed money,” he claimed, adding, “But, they will not be able to affect my prospects.”
Ajsu leader Sandeep Kumar denied the charges. “If people voted for our candidate, they did so willingly,” he said.
Congress nominee Saurabh Narain, who exercised his franchise in Padma, 17km from town, said this election was primarily being fought from the development plank and he was ahead in that race.
Food for thought
Situated on the border of Chatra and Hazaribagh districts, Maoist-dominated Bendi panchayat didn’t go polling in good numbers like the rest of the seat. At the “hypersensitive” Rajkiya Prathamik Vidyalaya booth, only 69 villagers out of 1,027 had cast their votes under strict vigil of gun-toting jawans till 10am.
A villager, who identified himself as Suraj Yadav, snapped when asked whether he had exercised his adult franchise. “Zindagi kam karne se chalti hai na ki vote dene se. Issliye kam pehle (To live, one needs employment. So, it is work first),” he said.
Normally, people of Bendi travel 22km to Hazaribagh town every day in search of petty jobs. However, this is the season of mahua (a wild flower that yields a heady brew) and most residents go scouring forests for the bloom, which sells at Rs 15 a kg.
“Vote karenge par kam aur pet-puja ke baad (We shall vote, but after work and lunch),” Suraj added.
Booth agent Pawan Kumar Dubey confirmed that in the morning, only the elderly had voted. “The others are will come, but late. They are in the woods. Mahua is their life and living,” he said.
The wait for Young Bendi ended around 10.30am when first-time voter Rupam Kumari (19) reached the booth. “Sabse jyada padha-likha aur badhiya umeedwar Hazaribagh mein hi hain (Hazaribagh has the best bunch of qualified and able candidates),” she justified her vote.
Three voters died on Thursday. Chhakauri Paswan (60) had a heart attack on her way to a booth in Chouparan, while Ram Swaroop Singh (73) collapsed and died at booth 32 in same area. One Rupa Devi (78) passed away after she voted at Bara Bazaar.
News of three can bombs planted at Oriya in Muffasil thana area of the town around 10am triggered a tizzy. Deputy commissioner Sunil Kumar said a police team was rushed to the spot, but the information was found to be wrong.