Bhagalpur saw heavy enthusiasm among voters as polling percentage rose from 43.89 per cent in 2009 to 55 per cent on Thursday.
The battle in this seat — of 18.2 per cent Muslim voters, around 20 per cent Gangotas (belonging to extremely backward castes) and around 12 per cent Yadavs — was largely a triangular contest between BJP’s sitting MP Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, RJD candidate Bulo Mandal and JD(U) candidate Abu Kaiser.
Voting in all six Assembly segments — Gopalpur, Bihpur, Pirpainti, Kahalgaon, Nathnagar and Bhagalpur — began at 7am. Long queues of voters were seen at most polling stations from early morning. Rama Devi (95), a native of Marwari tola, reached her polling booth at the Balsubodhani High School on her grandson’s lap. “In Bhagalpur, I want overall development, which was a reality once. I hope voting for an appropriate candidate serves the purpose,” she said.
Tappan Kumar (45) arrived at his booth, Sanyukt Krishi Bhavan in Tilka Manjhi, in a dhoti and gamcha. The dress had to do with rituals as his father passed away just four days ago. “No vote should be wasted,” Tappan said.
Polling booths across diara land in Bihpur and Gopalpur Assembly segments, too, saw huge turnouts. “We want change and development,” said Ramdev Yadav at Ishmailpur.
Bibi Rusinna, a homemaker from Karori Bazar locality, lost her cool when some residents working for a candidate came request her and her family to go and vote. “Why should we vote for politicians who never addressed our plight? We won’t go to vote,” she shouted loudly. Voters in two booths — 108 and 109 — boycotted polling over “government and politicians’ apathy”. At booth No 50 and 51, in Hussainganj area, voters boycotted polling over non-availability of drinking water.
Voters in areas of Bhagalpur worst hit by the communal carnage of 1989 did not carry memories of the riots to polling stations but communal politics remained a decisive factor. Mohammad Usman Khan (61), of Tatarpur said he was not going to vote for the BJP though he likes the party candidate, sitting MP Shahnawaz Hussain. “There were blasts and looting in Sarai Mohalla where I lived during the riots. I had to leave my ancestral home because of the riots. Shahnawaz is a good man but we cannot vote him because of his party,” Usman said.