Araria Lok Sabha seat has often seen a see-saw battle between the BJP and the RJD since 1998. With a substantial Muslim population, it has often seen a polarised battle as well.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Seemanchal strongman Mohammed Tasleem Uddin won the seat for RJD. After his death, the RJD leader's son Sarfaraz Alam won it in the 2018 bypolls. Araria is the only seat in Seemanchal and Kosi region that the BJP is contesting.
This time, too, a pitched battle is on the cards - between RJD's Sarfaraz and BJP candidate Pradeep Singh, who had won from the seat in 2009. While Alam has been trying to invoke his late father's legacy, Singh has been playing up the Narendra Modi factor. The BJP looks to gain an advantage from PM Modi's rally in Forbesganj on Saturday.
Araria Lok Sabha segment comprises the Assembly seats of Araria, Sikti, Narpatganj, Raniganj, Forbesganj and Jokihat. Of these, Araria and Jokihat are Muslim-dominated.
A BJP worker said: "Araria would often see a polarised battle. With about 7 lakh Muslim and Yadav voters, it saw sharp polarisation. We may not say it overtly, but Araria is often pided on religious lines, with the exception of most Yadavs siding with the RJD."
The BJP worker added that while Taslimuddin was a towering figure and got some Hindu votes as well, his son Sarfaraz does not have the same appeal. Follow more election news here.
BJP candidate Pradeep Singh said: "Come elections, and there are viral audios and videos. Some of them allege that we are trying to polarise. But they are all false. We are seeking votes in the name of development." RJD's Sarfaraz said his father had done a lot of work for the area and people remember him for that. The BJP, he alleged, is spreading canards.
While Araria and Jokihat could give RJD an advantage, Forbesganj, Raniganj and Sikti could give an edge to the BJP. Narpatganj, which has sizeable Yadav votes, could swing either way.
Mukesh Kumar, an Araria resident, said: "BJP looks well placed this time, with Pradeep Singh looking to get majority of non-Muslim and Yadav votes. Singh, who faced dissidence in the last bypolls, is not facing any such problem now. Besides, there have been some controversies around Sarfaraz."