By Abhishek Bharadwaj And Sahil Pandey
Patna (Bihar) [India], November 2 (ANI): Polling for the second and the most crucial phase of Bihar Assembly election on 94 constituencies spread across 17 districts slated on November 3 is likely to decide the electoral fate of prominent figures including chief ministerial candidates and seven serving ministers of the Nitish Kumar government in the state.
Of the 94 seats at stake in this phase, the RJD is contesting 56, the BJP 46 and the JD(U) 43.
While the general time for casting the vote has been set for between 7 am to 6 pm for all constituencies, polling in eight Naxal-affected constituencies will be held only between 7 am to 4 pm, as per the order issued by Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Bihar's office.
The most prominent faces whose fates are to be decided on November 3 are Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader and Mahagathbandhan's (grand alliance) chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav, who is contesting from the Raghopur constituency in Vaishali district. Tejashwi is pitted against the 'giant killer' Satish Kumar Yadav, whom the former had defeated in the 2015 Assembly elections to regain the seat for his party.
Raghopur was considered to be a RJD stronghold as fomer chief ministers Lalu Prasad Yadav had won from the seat twice in succession from 1995, and his wife Rabri Devi had won it in 2005. However, Satish Kumar Yadav had won from the seat fighting on the JD(U) ticket.
Tejashwi's elder brother and RJD leader Tej Pratap Yadav is contesting from the Hasanpur constituency in Samastipur district, where he is pitched against two-time MLA Rajkumar Rai of the JD(U).
Interestingly, Tej's father-in-law Chandrika Roy, who joined JD(U) from RJD is also in the fray this time from the Parsa constituency in Saran district where he faces Chhote Lal Ray of the RJD.
Polling will also take place in the Sarairanjan constituency in Samastipur district, from where JD(U) leader and Bihar Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary is contesting.
The fate of Road Construction Minister Nand Kishore Yadav, contesting from Patna Sahib constituency for the seventh consecutive time, Rural Development Minister Shrawan Kumar contesting from the Nalanda constituency, among others are other big names from the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) who are in the fray this time.
First timer Luv Sinha, son of Congress leader and actor Shatrughan Sinha, who is testing political waters is also contesting from the Bankipur constituency in Patna district where polling will be held in the second phase.
Meanwhile, the important woman candidates in this phase include names such as the Plurals Party founder and chief, Pushpam Priya Chaudhary, who is also contesting from the Bankipur seat, where Luv Sinha is also contesting from. The two debutants are pitted against sitting BJP MLA Nitin Nabin, making it a triangular and hotly contested seat.
Chaudhary who had launched the party as recently as March this year had decided to field its candidates from all 243 seats in the state.
The JD(U) has also fielded former social welfare minister Manju Verma for the Cheria-Bariyarpur seat in the Begusarai district. Verma earlier had to step down from her post when it was alleged that her husband had close ties with the prime accused in the Muzaffarpur shelter home sex scandal case.
RJD's Mangita Devi is pitted against LJP's Guddi Devi on the Runni Saidpur constituency. Mangita Devi hails from a political family and her father-in-law Bhola Rai had also won from the seat in the past.
Meanwhile, Mangita's main challenger, Guddi Devi, was a JDU leader but had crossed over to the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) after she was denied ticket by her party.
Former industry minister Renu Kumar, another ex-JDU leader who then joined LJP, is fighting from the Khagaria seat where she is pitted against JDU's Punam Devi Yadav. Punam had earlier won from Khagaria in the 2005 Assembly elections.
The JD(U) had suffered a setback in the reserved seat of Rajgir from where its sitting MLA Ravi Jyoti, a former police inspector, is now in the fray on a Congress ticket.
Two other ministers--JD(U)'s Ram Sevak Singh and Rana Randhir Singh of the BJP are trying their luck from Hathua and Madhuban in Gopalganj and East Champaran districts, respectively. Both the ministers are sitting MLAs from their respective seats.
The BJP has retained Arun Sinha and Sanjiv Chaurasia for Kumhrar and Digha Assembly constituencies, respectively as its candidates.
Further, seven Assembly constituencies of Nalanda district, from which CM Nitish Kumar hails, will also go to polls in the second phase. Barring Hilsa, represented by the RJD's Shakti Singh Yadav, and Bihar Sharif, which two-term MLA Sunil Kumar retained on a BJP ticket in 2015, all the remaining five were won by the JD(U) in 2015.
A total of 1,463 candidates are contesting in this phase of the election out of which 1,316 are men, 146 women and one is transgender, according to Election Commission of India (ECI) data.
The campaigning for this phase of the elections ended on November 1 evening.
In the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)- JDU is contesting on 115 seats, BJP 110, Vikassheel Insaan Party 11 seats and Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) seven seats of the total 243 seats in the state.
In the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), RJD is contesting on 144 seats, Congress 70, CPI-ML 19, CPI six and CPI-M four.
Nitish Kumar is eyeing his fourth term with BJP by his side. In 2015, Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) fought polls with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress as part of Mahagathbandhan. The BJP- led NDA had fought elections with LJP and other allies. JD-U later returned to NDA's fold.
Bihar is witnessing a triangular contest with the ruling JDU-BJP alliance and grand alliance (RJD, Congress and others) and Chirag Paswan's LJP.
LJP is contesting 136 seats on its own and has fielded candidates against all JD-U nominees and only a few against BJP.
The Election Commission has already mandated face masks, hand sanitizers, thermal scanners, gloves, face shields, and PPE kits during the electoral process while ensuring social distancing norms.
It also laid down guidelines for each polling station, including sanitization a day before the poll, markers for social distancing, putting up of COVID-19 awareness posters, and availability of hand gloves.
Bihar went for the first phase of elections on October 28 which witnessed 55.69 per cent polling.
The next two phases of polls will be held on November 3 and 7 and the results will be declared on November 10. (ANI)