Bihar's erstwhile badlands recorded an encouraging voter turnout of 54 per cent in the third phase of the Assembly elections on Thursday. Polling passed off without any hitch in 48 constituencies spread over six districts in the north-western part.

Director-General of Police Neelmani said a multi-tier security arrangement was in place with the deployment of Central forces in all critical and Naxal-infested areas. The borders with Nepal and Uttar Pradesh were sealed.

While Siwan and Gopalganj recorded 52 and 52 per cent, East and West Champaran registered 57 and 58 per cent.

The polling percentage ranged from 45 to 52 in the Naxal-affected constituencies of Amnour, Taraiya, Ramnagar, Valmikinagar and Patepur. Polling at Ramnagar, Valmikingar and Patepur concluded at 3 p.m., and at Amnour and Taraiya by 4 p.m. Voters were ferried by boat in some areas of the Raghopur constituency in Vaishali district.

Mr. Neelmani said polling was by and large peaceful, and 221 preventive detentions were made and 127 vehicles seized.

Party workers clash

Workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) clashed at two booths in the Raxaul constituency in East Champaran district.

The election authorities said an Independent, Awdesh Singh, was arrested with Rs.15,000 in cash for allegedly attempting to influence voters at Amnour.

A presiding officer was arrested for allegedly committing irregularities in Gopalganj constituency and a drunken constable was detained at a booth there.

An old woman, who had come to vote, died at a booth in Siwan district, officials said.

Defects in Electronic Voting Machines were reported from a few booths in West Champaran, Siwan, Vaishali and Gopalganj districts, but they were promptly rectified.

Voters boycotted polling at four booths in West and East Champaran districts.