The campaigning for the fifth and final phase of polling in 57 assembly seats spread over nine districts of north and eastern Bihar ended on Tuesday after bitter war of words between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Grand Alliance leaders Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad.
Muslims form a decisive chunk of voters in more than half of these seats, which is believed to have made this the toughest phase for the NDA and a crucial one for the JD(U)-RJD-Congress Grand Alliance (GA).
During the nearly two-month campaigning, leaders of the BJP-led NDA and GA sharpened their attacks on each other over a number of national and local issues. The GA leaders attacked the BJP over RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s views on reservation, the PM’s delayed reaction on the Dadri lynching case, “firecracker in Pakistan” remark of BJP chief Amit Shah and return of awards by writers, filmmakers and scientists.
The BJP and NDA leaders took on the GA leaders over “Hindus too eat beef” remark of Prasad, non-performance in 25 years of Lalu-Nitish rule, whipping up caste issues for votes and a sting operation that caught a JD(U) minister allegedly accepting bribe. Modi raised this “bribery video” as well as that of Kumar meeting a tantric at his rallies to attack the GA leaders on corruption and black magic.
The 57 seats are spread across Darbhanga, Madhubani, Supaul, Saharsa, Madhepura, Araria, Kishanganj, Purnia and Katihar districts of Mithilanchal and Kosi-Seemanchal areas. Voters here would decide the fate of several heavyweights, including many ministers and former ministers.
By addressing 26 election rallies during the five-phase polls, Modi set a record as no prime minister before him had campaigned for assembly elections in Bihar more than thrice. He also paid an official visit each in July and August. The two prime ministers who had campaigned in Bihar before Modi were AB Vajpayee in 2000 and Manmohan Singh in 2005 and in 2010.
Lalu Prasad addressed over 200 election rallies across the state. Nitish Kumar, JD(U)’s sole star campaigner, and state BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi were also close to the double-century mark.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi together held 16 rallies while former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, an ally of the BJP, addressed more than 150 election rallies.