PATNA, (India), Oct 26 (AFP): Paramilitary troops shot dead a man in a scuffle near a voting booth Wednesday during the second phase of state assembly elections in the lawless Indian state of Bihar, police said.
The killing came as federal and state officials posted about 90,000 police and paramilitary troops in the eastern state with orders to shoot troublemakers after threats by Maoist rebels to disrupt polling.
"We have a message for (troublemakers) and anti-socials: Don't (disrupt polling) or we will shoot", said G.S. Kang, the state chief secretary.
Indian air force helicopters patrolled the skies while police and paramilitary troops used mine detectors and sniffer dogs to maintain security.
The paramilitary said the man shot was carrying a gun and tried to grab a ballot box, while villagers said he was a priest. The district magistrate has ordered an inquiry into the killing.
With 80 million people, Bihar is India's second-largest state after neighbouring Uttar Pradesh and is a major battleground for political parties.
Balloting was taking place Wednesday in 11 northern districts of Bihar in the poll that was called after a February vote failed to produce a clear winner.
The polls have been staggered into four phases in a bid to minimise law and order problems in a state infamous for corruption, caste violence and poverty.
About 13 million of Bihar's 52 million voters were eligible to vote Wednesday in 14,000 polling stations, an election commission official said.
The first round of balloting on October 18 saw a voter turnout of 43 percent. One person was killed in election-related violence.
Two more rounds are scheduled for November 13 and November 19, with results due on November 22.
Among the 450 candidates in the fray Wednesday was former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi, wife of federal railways minister Laloo Prasad Yadav.
Yadav, 57, engineered the election of his wife as chief minister five years ago after he was charged with corruption in an animal feed scam that is still before the courts.
But after 15 years at the helm, Yadav and his regional Rashtriya Janata Dal party seem to be in danger of losing their grip on power, political analysts say.
Yadav, a wisecracking son of a cow herder, enjoys populist appeal.
He and his party are up against cabinet colleague Ram Vilas Paswan and his Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Both are part of India's ruling coalition -- the United Progressive Alliance -- but are rivals in Bihar.
The main opposition National Democratic Alliance's chief ministerial candidate, former railways minister Nitish Kumar, also enjoys a strong following in the state.
This is the second state assembly election this year. Polls in February ended with a hung assembly and Bihar was put under a federally-appointed governor. Ten people were killed during the February elections.
At least 5,000 murders and 12,000 abductions take place in Bihar every year, according to police figures, earning it the tag of India's most lawless state.