While the NDA looked surefooted till a few months ago, poll pundits have begun to predict ‘winds of change’ with a seemingly resurgent RJD under the leadership of Tejwashwi Yadav
Voters in 78 constituencies are set to exercise their franchise in the third and final phase of the Bihar Assembly polls tomorrow (7 November). All eyes are on the last phase as stakes are high for the ruling NDA and the Opposition’s Grand Alliance led by an apparently resurgent RJD.
About 2.34 crore voters, spread across 78 segments of the 243-strong Assembly, will decide the fate of 1,204 candidates, including the Assembly Speaker and 12 members of the state cabinet.
Additionally, polling will also take place for the Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha seat where a by-election has been necessitated by the death of sitting JD(U) MP Baidyanath Mahato.
The JD(U)’s bid to retain the Parliamentary seat by fielding his son Sunil Kumar is facing the primary challenge from Congress candidate Pravesh Kumar Mishra, a journalist-turned-politician.
Like Valmiki Nagar Parliamentary seat, all the Assembly segments spread across 19 districts fall in north Bihar. Areas falling north of the Ganges in the state are referred to as north Bihar in common parlance.
Many of these fall in the Kosi-Seemanchal region where the contest between NDA and Grand Alliance will be held under the shadow of the Owaisi factor given the fact that the AIMIM has fielded candidates in many of the Muslim-dominated seats and the Hyderabad MP also carried out a hectic campaign in the state.
The Kosi-Seemanchal region also happens to be the main area of influence for former MP Pappu Yadav, whose Jan Adhikar Party is determined to make its presence felt and prove a point to the RJD, PTI reported. Both draw their support from the state’s most populous community — the Yadavs.
As in the previous two phases, Chirag Paswan’s LJP is also in the fray in a number of seats this time, threatening to play spoilsport for the NDA, especially the JD(U), with its repeated pleas that “every vote cast in favour of the Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s party will be a loss for Bihar’s future”.
While the NDA looked surefooted till a few months ago, poll pundits have begun to predict “winds of change” and the ruling coalition seems to have taken note, as emotional appeals to the voters have emanated from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Nitish, who is seeking a fourth straight term in the chief minister’s office.
Modi, who presided over 12 rallies during the campaign, came out with an open letter addressed to the people of the state on Thursday, saying, he “needed” Nitish in the state so that the development of Bihar continued unhindered.
Nitish, on his part, stunned all by winding up his last election meeting in Purnia district on Thursday with the remark “this is my last election. And all is well that ends well”.
The chief minister, who seems to be bearing the brunt of the perceived anti-incumbency, caught his party members unawares with the comment. PTI reported that public anger is seemingly directed at the JD(U) more than the BJP.
His old associate and state unit president Vashishtha Narayan Singh has insisted that Nitish was himself not in the fray, having been a member of the legislative council ever since he occupied the top post in the state, and he must have meant to say it was the “last rally he was addressing for the current elections”.
The RJD, once considered invincible, is leaving no stone unturned to make a comeback, enthused by the response its chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav has been receiving.
The party has forged a rainbow coalition that comprises its old ally, the Congress, and the Left parties.
Prominent candidates include Bihar Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary of the JD(U), famed for his ability to win over hostile opponents with a disarming smile, who seeks to do a hat-trick in Sarairanjan.
JD(U) ministers in the fray are Bijendra Prasad Yadav (Supaul), Narendra Narayan Yadav (Alamnagar), Maheshwar Hazari (Kalyanpur), Ramesh Rishideo (Singheshwar), Khurshid alias Firoz Ahmed (Sikta), Lakshmeshwar Roy (Laukaha), Bima Bharti (Rupauli) and Madan Sahni (Bahadurpur). Four ministers are in the fray from the BJP, including Pramod Kumar (Motihari), Suresh Sharma (Muzaffarpur), Binod Narayan Jha (Benipatti) and Krishnakumar Rishi (Banmankhi).
Besides, family members of late ministers Vinod Kumar Singh (BJP) and Kapil Deo Kamat (JDU) are in the fray from the late legislators’ respective seats Pranpur and Babubarhi.
Another keenly watched candidate is Subhashini Yadav from Bihariganj whose father, veteran socialist leader and former Union minister Sharad Yadav, had been a multiple-term MP from Madhepura under which the Assembly segment falls. She is contesting on a Congress ticket.
Saturday will be the last leg of the voting in the current Bihar polls where elections are being conducted amid a raging COVID-19 pandemic. Counting of votes is scheduled for 10 November.
With inputs from agencies
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