All eyes are now on the polling for third and final phase of assembly elections in Bihar scheduled Saturday in which stakes are quite high for the ruling NDA, trying to avert the anti-incumbency factor, and the opposition Grand Alliance led by an apparently resurgent RJD.
About 2.34 crore voters, spread across 78 assembly segments of the 243-strong Assembly, will decide the fates of 1204 candidates, including the Speaker and 12 members of the state cabinet. Besides, polling will also take place for 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 Parliamentry 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, all the 78 poll-bound assembly segments spread across 19 districts fall in north Bihar, as areas falling north of the Ganges in the state are called 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 Owaisi factor given the fact that the AIMIM has fielded candidates in many of the Muslim-dominated seats here and the Hyderabad MP also carried out a hectic campaign.
The Kosi-Seemanchal region also happens to be the main area of influence for maverick former MP Pappu Yadav, whose Jan Adhikar Party is determined to make its presence felt and prove a point to the RJD as both draw their support from the states most populous community the Yadavs.
As in the previous two phases, Chirag Paswans 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 Ministers party will be a loss for Bihars 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 Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.