A combination picture of politicians who are in fray in sixth phase of Lok Sabha polls on Aril 24, 2014. Agency photos
Mahesh Manjrekar, actor and MNS candidate from Mumbai North West, files his nomination papers in Bandra. (HT photo/Kalpak Pathak)
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi attends a road show with Jitendra Singh in Rajasthan. (PTI photo)
Hema Malini, Bollywood actress and BJP candidate from Mathura, addresses the press on Sunday. She is accompanied by her daughters Esha and Ehana. (PTI photo)
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, along with his wife and SP leader Dimple Yadav, attend an election rally in Kannauj. (PTI photo)
A file photo of DMK Dayanidhi Maran with party chief M Karunanidhi in Chennai. (PTI photo)
Maharashtra PWD minister Chhagan Bhujbal seeks blessing from priests during his visit to Trimbakeshwar temple in Nashik. (PTI photo)
Babulal Marandi, founder and national president of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, attends an election rally in Bokaro. (PTI photo)
Mohammed Azharuddin, Congress candidate from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur, arrives at Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin chisty's shrine to offer prayers, in Ajmer. (HT photo/Deepak Sharma)
RLD leader Amar Singh at a road show along with Dimple Kapadia and Jaya Prada near Agra. (HT photo)
As Bihar goes to polls on Thursday for seven of its 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state's third phase of elections, the stakes are high for the BJP.
Of the seven constituencies, the BJP currently holds five – Araria, Katihar, Purnia, Bhagalpur and Banka.
In the remaining two, Congress holds Kishanganj while the ruling JD (U) won from Supaul last time.
There are 108 candidates in the fray in this phase, including Union minister of state for agriculture Tariq Anwar of NCP contesting from Katihar, former civil aviation minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain of BJP from Bhagalpur, and former Union minister of state for home Mohammad Taslimuddin of RJD from Araria.
This north-eastern region of Bihar bordering Bangladesh and Nepal – with an electorate of over 1.08 crore – is regarded as the state's Muslim hub, thanks to a significant presence of the minority community across the seats.
The going looks tough for the BJP given that its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi is widely seen as being anti-Muslim, following the 2002 Gujarat riots under his reign as chief minister.
Moreover, it is generally thought that Muslims would vote for any candidate who is seen as placed best to defeat nominees put up by Modi.
In Kishanganj, a constituency with almost 70% Muslim population, sitting Congress MP Maulana Asrarul Haque Kasmi is seeking re-election.
After JD (U) candidate Akhtarul Iman withdrew from the fray allegedly to prevent a split in 'secular' votes, the Congress nominee is locked in battle with BJP's Dilip Jaiswal.
Kishanganj has returned Muslim nominees in all 10 Lok Sabha elections held since 1971. The only time the BJP has won the seat was when Syed Shahnawaz Hussain was elected in 1999.
Hussain is now the BJP's sitting MP in Bhagalpur and is seeking re-election. He is contesting against Shailesh Kumar alias Bulo Mandal of RJD and Abu Kaiser of JD (U).
In Katihar, NCP leader and Union minister Anwar is fighting a close battle with BJP's three-time sitting MP Nikhil Chaudhary and JD (U)'s Ramprakash Mahto.
In Araria, RJD nominee Taslimuddin is trying to unseat sitting MP and BJP candidate Pradip Singh. The JD (U) has fielded Vijay Mandal from this seat.
In Purnia, JD (U) nominee Santosh Kushwaha, who was the BJP's Baisi MLA before he defected to the state's ruling party, is pitted against sitting MP and BJP nominee Uday Singh. The RJD-backed Congress nominee Amarnath Tiwari is also in the fray.
In Banka, Putul Kumari won as an independent in 2009. But she joined the BJP before the polls this time, and is now seeking re-election on a ticket from the saffron party. She faces a strong challenge from former minister Jayaprakash Yadav of the RJD. Also contesting is the JD (U)-backed CPI nominee Sanjay Kumar.
In Supaul, the contest is among Ranjeet Ranjan of Congress, BJP's Kameshwar Chaupal and JD (U)'s Dileshwar Kamat.
Citing large turnout at election rallies addressed by Modi in Bihar, the BJP leadership appears to be banking on a 'counter-polarisation' of Hindu votes in its favour.
On Thursday, a total of 57,000 security personnel belonging to 221 companies of security forces – including 147 central forces like CRPF, ITBP, BSF, CISF and RPF – will be on duty, said Bihar chief secretary AK Sinha.
Voting will be held from 7am to 6pm in all seats except in two assembly segments under Banka constituency – Banka and Katoria. Owing to the Maoist threat in the area, polling in these two assembly segments will end at 4pm.
Here's a map for the constituencies going to polls on Thursday. On searching, you will get details of all parties fighting from a constituency and key candiates there: