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Voters lap up last lap
Dal MLA attacks rival, on the run

A hunt has been initiated for the arrest of JD(U) legislator from Kuchaykot in Gopalganj, Amrendra Pandey, and six others for allegedly assaulting a voter at a polling station in the constituency during the last phase of the general election on Monday.

The search for Amrendra, also called Pappu Pandey, was launched on the directive of the district magistrate-cum-district returning officer of Gopalganj, Krishna Mohan, after an FIR was lodged against the seven at Mirganj police station of the district.

The victim, Jairam Tiwary (45), has been referred to a Gorakhpur hospital after being provided first aid at the Gopalganj sadar hospital. The district magistrate said: “A special police team headed by the superintendent of police, Vinod Kumar, has been constituted to arrest all the seven accused, including the MLA. A report has been sought from the SP. The district police chief has been asked to initiate disciplinary action against the lawmaker’s bodyguard, whose name also figured in the FIR,” he told The Telegraph.

Tiwary, a resident of Tisasia village, alleged that Pandey and his supporters intercepted him while he was going to cast his vote at booth number 204 at Singha Basdila village. The attack left him with head injuries and a fractured left hand. “The MLA was pressuring me to vote for the JD(U) candidate,” he told the district magistrate (DM) and senior police officers.

Tiwary is said to be a staunch RJD supporter. Later, RJD-backed Congress candidate Jyoti Kumari met Tiwary at the hospital. The victim’s daughter Pratibha Devi alleged the ruling party legislator had earlier threatened her father. “Mere pitaji ko MLA sahib ne dekh lene ki dhamki di thi (The MLA had warned my father of dire consequences),” she told the police at the Gopalganj sadar hospital.

The MLA, who had was in the news earlier for his alleged role in the murder of a liquor trader, went into hiding soon after he came to know about the district returning officer’s order for his arrest.

The victim’s statement has been videographed and the video clips would be provided to the state chief electoral officer, a senior officer said, adding that the process of putting the MLA’s bodyguard under suspension has already begun.

The incident notwithstanding, voter turnout at all polling stations of the constituency was impressive.

Kamlawati Devi, who stays with her family on the embankment of the Gandak river near Bishunpur village, said she would support the candidate would helps in their rehabilitation. “I have come to cast my vote for a stable and good government at the Centre, which would take care of people like me,” she said.

Similar views were echoed by other women voters such as Rukmini Devi and Devayanti Devi, residents of Dhupsagar village, who had come to the nearby polling booth to exercise their franchise. She lamented that candidates seldom visit their constituency after they are elected.

Voters like Indravati Devi (95), a retired teacher, and Dharmendra Thakur (87), an affluent farmer, said they had voted for a change of government at the Centre. They lamented that the candidates in the fray ignored the local issues. “It’s a matter of concern that local issues never become an agenda in these elections,” Thakur said.

The elections in Siwan passed off peacefully.

“Barring a few skirmishes, the elections went of peacefully. Heavy deployment of security forces were made to ensure free, fair and peaceful elections,” Siwan district magistrate Devesh Sehra said.

Siwan recorded 56 per cent polling compared to 50.23 per cent in 2009.

“There has been a six per cent rise in polling in the constituency,” he said, adding that there were reports of poll boycott from a few places.

The voters, according to authoritative sources, boycotted elections at booth numbers 81 and 83 under Bhutani block of the district. Polling booths under Raghunathpur, Siswan and Andar blocks, witnessed heavy turnout of voters, who queued up at the respective polling stations much before the start of polling.

Supporters of two parties clashed at a booth at Nandmura village, the native place of criminal-turned-politician Ajay Singh, whose wife Kavita Kumari is an MLA from Darauda.

While the RJD has fielded Hena Shahab, sitting MP Om Prakash Yadav is contesting on the BJP ticket, backed by the LJP. The seat was earlier synonymous with criminal-turned-politician Mohammad Shahabuddin, who went unchallenged from early 1990s till 2005. The notoriety of the district came to national prominence on March 31, 1997, when former Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union president Chandrashekhar was killed.

Shahabuddin is currently serving a jail term in Gaya. He was shifted to Gaya from Siwan divisional jail by the district administration ahead of the elections. “The fear has gone. The voters’ turnout is an indication of the change that has taken place in Siwan, once known for guns and goons,” said a BJP worker.