Bihar Assembly elections | Voting in first phase on October 28

It will be a close contest between the BJP-led NDA and the RJD-led mahagathbandhan

Voting in the first phase of the Bihar Assembly elections for 71 seats across 16 districts will be held on October 28.

It will be a close contest between the BJP-led NDA and the RJD-led mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) despite issues of corruption at lower levels of bureaucracy and prohibition plaguing the incumbent government, while the Opposition led by Tejashwi Yadav is getting “advantage by default” and narrowing the gap.

Bihar is the first State going to the polls amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Election Commission has issued several guidelines for the voters and those engaged in conducting the poll.

In the first phase, the RJD is contesting in 42 seats and alliance partner Congress in 21 seats. Similarly, the ruling NDA alliance JD(U) candidates are in the fray in 41 seats, the BJP in 29 and the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) in 41 seats. The LJP is not part of the NDA in Bihar as it has fielded party candidates in 143 seats, mainly to contest against JD(U) nominees. Altogether, 1,066 candidates are in the fray in the first phase of elections, of whom 114 are women.

The electoral fate of over half-a-dozen ministers of the Nitish Kumar Cabinet, such as Krishnandan Verma, Jai Kumar Singh, Santosh Kumar Nirala, Vijay Kumar Sinha, Prem Kumar, Shailesh Kumar, Brij Kishore Bind and Ram Narayan Mandal, will be decided in the first phase in districts such as Maoist-affected Gaya, Rohtas and Aurangabad.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other top BJP leaders have addressed a number of public meetings, while Congress leader Rahul Gandhi too addressed two in Nawada and Bhagalpur.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav have also addressed several meetings. Mr. Modi and Mr. Gandhi are also scheduled to address public meetings in Bihar on Wednesday.

Tejashwi factor

For mahagathbandhan, Mr. Tejashwi Yadav is the main campaign star in whose public meetings a large number of youths have turned out. The young leader has promised 10 lakh jobs to youth of the State with his first signature in first Cabinet meeting if voted to power.

“Seemingly, he (Tejashwi Yadav) is getting an advantage by default due to likely support of anti-Nitish Kumar votes. He is attracting huge gatherings at his public meetings, mostly the negative votes”, said political analyst Ajay Kumar.

Similarly, CPI star campaigner Kanhaiya Kumar too is getting an encouraging response from crowds at his public meetings largely confined to Begusarai district.

On the other side, Mr. Nitish Kumar is facing a huge anti-incumbency feeling and has been seen losing his cool at times during public meetings. The 69-year-old veteran has faced strong protests and pro-Lalu Prasad slogans at his public meetings. He is seeking a fourth consecutive term in power and Mr. Tejashwi Yadav has highlighted in his public meetings that Mr. Nitish Kumar has now become a “tired” person “who is not able to govern”.

Meanwhile, prominent BJP leaders like Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, poll in-charge Devendra Fadnavis and former Union Ministers Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Shahnawaj Hussain have fallen prey to COVID-19 while campaigning.

The second and third phases of the poll will be held on November 3 and 7. Counting will be on November 10.

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