LS polls: Campaign ends, 8 seats in Bihar up for grabs in last lap - Hindustan Times
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LS polls: Campaign ends, 8 seats in Bihar up for grabs in last lap

May 30, 2024 09:35 PM IST

Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ramkripal Yadav, R K Singh and Misa Bharti are among the key faces in the fray in the last phase

The whir of helicopters and blaring loudspeakers used by political parties over the last two months fell silent as campaigning for the seventh and final phase of the 18th Lok Sabha elections, in which eight of Bihar’s 40 seats go to vote on June 1, came to an end on Thursday evening.

Polling staff collect election material from a centre in Patna for the last phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. (HT PHOTO)
Polling staff collect election material from a centre in Patna for the last phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. (HT PHOTO)

The polls in eight constituencies of Patna Sahib, Patliputra (both in Patna), Nalanda, Arrah, Buxar, Sasaram (SC), Karakat and Jehanabad will decide the fate of four former Union ministers in the NDA government, besides RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s eldest daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Misa Bharti, who hopes to win Pataliputra after two successive failed bids.

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Union minister Raj Kumar Singh, a two-time MP from Arrah, is aiming for a third straight term and is being challenged by Sudama Prasad of the CPI(ML), an MLA. The Left party has good influence in the area.

Former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, a Rajya Sabha MP between 2000 and 2019 before being elected to the Lok Sabha from Patna Sahib, is pitted against Dr Anshul Avijit of the Congress in his bid to retain the seat. Avijit is son of former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and grandson of former deputy prime minister late Jagjivan Ram.

Former Union minister Ram Kripal Yadav, a five-time Lok Sabha MP — from Patna Lok Sabha constituency on RJD ticket in 1991, 1996, and 2004, and then from Pataliputra in 2014 and 2019 from the BJP — is once again locked in a fierce battle with Misa Bharti, who he defeated in the last two LS polls. Yadav is a former loyalist of Lalu Yadav.

In Buxar, BJP has dropped its sitting MP and union minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey in favour of Mithilesh Kumar Tiwari, a former MLA from Baikunthpur in Gopalganj district. Choubey had won the seat in 2014 too. Tiwari is pitted against RJD’s Sudhakar Singh, an MLA and a former minister in the state government. He is son of state RJD president Jagdanand Singh, who has represented Buxar in the Lok Sabha in the past.

In Karakat, former union minister Upendra Kushwaha, who is fighting on the symbol of his latest outfit Rashtriya Lok Morcha (RLP) as the NDA nominee, is locked in a keen triangular contest with CPI’s Raja Ram Singh, a former MLA, and popular Bhojpuri actor and singer Pawan Singh, who is in the fray as an Independent. Kushwaha had won the seat in 2014 as NDA nominee.

The actor, who had rejected BJP ticket from Asansol in West Bengal before deciding to enter the fray in Karakat, has mounted a spirited campaign and has been drawing huge crowds.

The Karakat seat, currently represented by JD(U)’s Mahabali Singh, has gone this time to Kushwaha’s RLM as part of the seat adjustment among NDA allies.

In Jehanabad, sitting JD-U MP Chandeshwar Prasad faces off RJD strongman and MLA Surendra Prasad Yadav.

Nalanda: Nitish’s home turf

In Nalanda, chief minister Nitish Kumar’s home district, sitting JD-U MP Kaushalendra Kumar is pitted against Sandeep Saurabh of the CPI(ML) in his bid to win a fourth consecutive term in the Lok Sabha from the constituency.

“We don’t like him (Kaushalendra). Still, he will hit a ‘chauka’ (a four in cricket parlance), because people are looking at the faces of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and CM Nitish Kumar. Nitish Kumar has a good connect with local people here,” says Bisheshar Prasad, a fast-food stall owner, adding that Kaushaledra will have an advantage of being local, whereas Saurav, a former student leader at JNU, hails from Paliganj.

Nalanda has been a stronghold of socialists. Nitish Kumar’s Samata Party, and later JD-U, have been winning the seat consistently since 1996. Nitish Kumar was himself elected to the Lok Sabha from the seat in 2004.

Arithmetically too, Nalanda parliamentary constituency is tilted in favour of JD(U), which, together with ally BJP, holds six out of the seven assembly seats — Asthawan, Bihar Sharif, Rajgir, Hilsa, Nalanda and Harnaut.

Islampur assembly seat is represented by RJD.

Nalanda, home to ruins of ancient Nalanda University, now boasts of a magnificent global university (revived Nalanda University) and a world-class cricket stadium, besides good highways. “But job opportunities are shrinking. All these will not ease sufferings of youths,” says Raushan Kumar of Begampur village near the ruins of ancient Nalanda University.

Nepura, a part of Rajgir assembly segment, was once known for production of handloom silk cloth. Today, the business is in terminal decline. “There was a time when curtains made by Nepura weavers used to add to the aesthetic beauty to the old Parliament building. Now, hardly any political leader pays attention to our miseries. Cost of raw materials has gone up three times in last one year. Profit margin is at the ebb,” says Dinesh Kumar, while weaving a Bawan Boota silk sari ordered by a Delhi-based businessman.

The Bihar blitz

For the NDA, Prime Minister Narendra Modi kicked off his campaign with a road show in Patna on May 12, following it up with rallies in Buxar, Karakat and Paliganj (Patliputra constituency) on May 25.

Union home minister Amit Shah addressed a rally at Ara May 24, his cabinet colleague Smriti Irani the same day in Patna City and Kankerbagh localities under Patna Sahib constituency of Patna. The next day, Assam chief minister Hemanta Biswa Sharma landed in Patna on May 25 and BJP president JP Nadda addressed rallies at Karakat and Jehanabad on May 26.

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Mohan Yadav campaigned for BJP candidates in Patna Sahib and Patliputra constituencies and UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath also addressed a public rally at Karakat on May 27, followed up by Amit Shah the next day.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh addressing rallies at Karakat and Ara on May 29.

From the Opposition, RJD leader and Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav led most of the campaigning in the state. However, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi flew in to the state to address public rallies at Paliganj (Patliputra constituency), Jagdishpur in Ara and Bakhtiyarpur under Patna Sahib constituency on May 27.

134 candidates in fray

A total 134 candidates, the maximum in any phase, are trying their luck in the seventh phase in the state. Of them, 12 are women. Among the total, 43 candidates are in the fray as Independents while 23 are from parties. The maximum number of 29 candidates are contesting from Nalanda, while the least number of candidates are in the Sasaram constituency, with only 10 candidates in the fray.

Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party is in the fray on all eight seats, while in the NDA, five candidates are from BJP, two from JD(U) and Upendra Kushwaha himself from Rashtriya Lok Manch.

From the INDIA bloc, RJD and CPI(ML) are contesting on three seats each and Congress on two.

In the eight Lok Sabha constituencies of the seventh phase, seven seats are general while Sasaram is reserved for scheduled castes.

Maximum number of voters

A total 1,62,04,594 electors, the highest in any phase in the state, will cast their votes in all the eight Lok Sabha constituencies. Out of these, 85,01,620 are male voters while 77,02,559 are female. As many as 415 are third gender.

The number of voters between 18 and 19 years of age who will vote for the first time in this election is 2,23,863, while the number of voters between 20 and 29 years of age is 32,26,847.

As many as 4,331 voters are above 100 years of age while voters above 85 years of age account for 1,61,102. The number of differently-abled voters is 1,68,097.

Patna Sahib has the highest number of voters (22,93,045), while Jehanabad has the lowest number of voters (16,70,327).

The Election Commission has set up a total of 16,634 polling stations in all the eight Lok Sabha constituencies. Of these, 12,749 polling stations are in rural areas, while 3,885 polling stations are in urban areas. The EC has installed CCTV cameras at 7,878 of these polling stations.

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