Will the BJP share the honours with a resurgent RJD in these Lok Sabha polls in Bihar or will the scales be tilted decisively in favour of one party or the other?
Again, does the ‘Modi wave’ run deeper than assessed by most people? Or, will Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) surprise analysts by putting up a better show than expected?
These are key questions that are expected to be answered by the outcome in the seven north Bihar Lok Sabha seats going to the polls on Wednesday.
The answers will determine the way this election goes in Bihar, which sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha.
The seven seats on offer in this phase — Saran, Maharajganj, Hajipur, Ujiarpur, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and Sheohar — are significant because of the political notables in the fray, including leading women candidates.
A battle royale is in the offing in Saran between former union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy (BJP) and Rabri Devi, who is seeking to don husband Lalu Prasad’s Lok Sabha mantle after his conviction in a fodder scam case last year and his subsequent unseating from Saran.
Saran, like the other six seats, will prove to be a test case of the extent to which caste continues to dictate voting preferences in the face of what the BJP insists is a strong ‘Modi wave’ sweeping the state and the JD(U)’s claim of having brought about development in Bihar.
Harinath Yadav, a small businessman at Shitalpur in Saran, insisted there are only two poles in Saran, or, for that matter, in most of the other six seats — the RJD and the BJP. “There’s no third pole,” he said.
Yadav said his caste men, along with Rajputs, were “marginalised” in the past eight years of Nitish’s rule and are ready to express their resentment by voting the RJD.
This is the line the RJD is selling in this election, especially this phase of the polls: that Lalu Prasad is bouncing back on the strength of a renewed combination of Muslims, Yadavs and Rajputs, which had worked for him in the 1990s.