Over 1.35 crore voters will exercise their franchise in 49 Assembly constituencies in Bihar on Monday for the first phase, campaigning for which ended on Saturday.
The districts where the 49 constituencies are spread are Samastipur, Begusarai, Bhagalpur, Banka, Khagaria, Munger, Lakhisarai, Sheikhpura, Nawada and Jamui. Out of 49 constituencies, the JDU had won 29 in 2010, BJP, which was with JDU at that time, had won 13, while the RJD had won four.
This time around, BJP has fielded 27 candidates, while the JDU candidates are contesting on 24 seats, RJD on 17, LJP 13, Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) six, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) three and Congress eight.
Some of the prominent leaders whose fate will be decided in the first phase are Vijay Chaudhary (JDU), Sadanand Singh and Pashupati Kumar Paras.
The campaigning got off to a positive start with the two main contenders – BJP-led NDA and the “grand alliance” of JDU, RJD and Congress – talking about the development agenda. However, while NDA stuck to the issues of development and return of “jungle raj”, the “grand alliance” gradually started raising the caste issue, with its leader Lalu Prasad saying “it’s a battle between forward and backward” castes.
Subsequently, words like ‘Shaitan’, ‘Brahma-Pisach’, ‘Chara-chor’ and ‘Narbhakshi’ were used during the campaigning, prompting the Election Commission to come out with a statement urging “political parties, their leaders in all capacities and the contesting candidates to observe utmost decency in their election campaign speeches and set an example for future elections in the matter of maintaining high standards of conduct and behaviour in election campaign”.
The NDA’s campaign was spearheaded by Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, with the PM addressing six election rallies. Several Union ministers, too, addressed a string of rallies. On the other hand, the grand alliance’s campaign was led mainly by Lalu Prasad Yadav and Nitish Kumar. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul Gandhi visited the state only for a day each.