Campaigning for the second phase of Bihar assembly elections ended on Sunday evening, setting the stage for polling on Tuesday in 94 constituencies spread across 17 districts. The last day of campaigning witnessed hectic canvassing with Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing four back-to-back rallies in support of NDA candidates, and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who is also in the fray in this phase, criss-crossing over a dozen venues.
According to the Election Commission, more than 2.85 crore voters will decide the electoral fate of 1,463 candidates -- 1316 male, 146 female and one transgender. Of the total 2,85,50,285 voters 1,50,33,034 are male, 1,35,16,271 female and 980 transgender, as per the poll panel data.
The Election Commission said it has set up a total of 41,362 booths at 18,823 polling stations. Maharajganj constituency has the maximum 27 candidates in this phase, while the minimum four are from Darauli constituency (SC). The 94 constituencies which are going to poll on November 3 are in 17 districts: West Champaran, East Champaran, Sheohar, Sitamarhi, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, Vaishali, Samastipur, Begusarai, Khagaria, Bhagalpur, Nalanda and Patna.
The BJP's charge was led by Prime Minister Modi, who addressed seven rallies over two days, including the four on Sunday. Several Union ministers including Rajnath Singh, Smriti Irani, Giriraj Singh and Anurag Thakur, besides senior party leaders such as BJP chief J P Nadda addressed campaign rallies.
In his Sunday rallies, the prime minister excoriated the opposition over the Pulwama attack after Pakistan's admission of complicity in it and berated the RJD-Congress combine, calling it an alliance of "double-double yuvraj" (two crown princes) whose sole concern was to protect their "respective thrones". BJP leaders repeatedly raked up the Ram temple issues, Article 370, triple talaq and also prominently mentioned the Pakistani minister's admission of his country's involvement in the Pulwama attack of 2019 that had left 40 CRPF jawans dead.
For attacking the RJD, their constant refrain was "jungle raj", "lantern era", "kidnapping industry", slamming the party over its record on law and order. At a rally on October 28, PM Modi had targeted Tejashwi, calling him "Jungle Raj Ke Yuvraj (the crown prince of jungle raj)".
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed two rallies for this phase of elections where he cornered Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar over the issues of unemployment, migrant crisis, farm laws and sugar mills. He had said the prime minister talks about other countries in his speeches but not about the issues facing the nation such as unemployment.
Tejashwi, in the meanwhile, scaled up the intensity of his campaign and addressed close to a dozen, or even more, rallies every day since the voting for phase 1 of election on October 28. He kept his focus on his promise of 10 lakh jobs, while also assailing Kumar over a record "46.6 per cent unemployment", poor status of education and health facilities, the handling of the coronavirus crisis among other things.
Tejashwi's salvos drew stinging response from Kumar who tried to blunt his attack by comparing the law and order situation under the RJD's government (1990-2005) with that under his 15 rule and constantly reminding the voter that RJD chief Lalu Yadav has been implicated for corruption and is serving a jail term. Kumar also kept counting his government's work on power, road and giving reservation to women in local bodies.
He also said that he would prefer population-proportionate reservation. With massive crowds thronging these rallies, COVID- 19 guidelines on social distancing were flagrantly violated.
Tejashwis elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav is also in the fray in this phase. Among other prominent faces whose fate would be closed in EVMs in this phase are: BJP leader and Road Construction Minister Nand Kishore Yadav (Patna Sahib), JD(U) lawmaker and Rural Development Minister Shrawan Kumar (Nalanda), BJP MLA and Cooperative Minister Rana Randhir Singh (Madhuban), and JD(U) leader and state minister Ramsevak Singh (Hathua).
Also in the fray is Chandrika Roy (JDU), the father of Tej Pratap Yadavs estranged wife Aishwarya Rai, who in her campaign has been highlighting the alleged "ill-treatment" meted out to her by RJD chief Lalu Prasad's family. This phase is also very crucial for Chirag Paswan- led Lok Janshakti Party which has fielded 52 candidates.
Their performance in this phase will indicate if the issues raised by Paswan during his campaign -- corruption charges against Nitish Kumar, education degrees getting delayed, lack of jobs, and migration for livelihood -- found resonance among the people. The RJD has 56 candidates in the fray this phase, the BJP 46, the JD(U) 43, the RLSP 36 and the Congress 24.
Congress leader Shatrughan Sinhas son Luv Sinha is also in the fray this phase from Bankipur seat in Patna. He is up against sitting BJP MLA Nitin Nabin. Haranut (Nalanda) constituency, which houses Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's village, is also going to vote in this phase.
Voting will begin at 7 am on November 3. The third and final round of voting will take place on November 7 and the counting of votes on November 10.