Is Bihar mein Lalu still like samose mein aalu? Or, is there an undercurrent that holds out the promise of tilting this election in favour of chief minister Nitish Kumar-led NDA?
The outcome of 13 Lok Sabha seats which vote on Thursday will reveal the answers to these critical queries. This is a do-or-die phase for both, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and his ally Lok Janashakti Party (LJP) leader Ram Vilas Paswan. Between RJD and LJP, they had won nine of the 13 seats in 2004. The big question now is: amid all the mud slinging with the Congress, do they have enough going for them to hold their own in North Bihar?
There can be little doubt that an average performance by the Lalu-Paswan combine will put their alliance under pressure and greatly diminish their bargaining power. Then, they have Nitish to contend with — a man unswerving in his desire to settle once and for who is Bihar’s real neta.
This phase will also confirm whether or not the Congress is really capable of a comeback in Bihar. An affirmation will come if Union Minister Shakeel Ahmad retains Madhubani in the face of stiff opposition from Bihar RJD president Abdul Bari Siddiqui. Or, even if Lovely Anand succeeds in wresting Sheohar from RJD's Sitaram Singh.
Reports suggest the BJP-JD(U) alliance have the edge in five constituencies and RJD-LJP combine in four. The remaining four seats appear up for grabs. The likelihood of photo finishes in several constituencies is very high.