Campaigning for the third and final phase of Bihar assembly elections in which 2.35 crore voters will decide the electoral fate of more than 1,200 candidates, including the Speaker and some members of the state cabinet, ended on Thursday evening. The final phase of polling on Saturday will cover 78 constituencies spread across 19 north Bihar districts.
Leading from the front, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed rallies in remote districts of Araria and Saharsa for this phase of elections, exhorting the masses to retain their trust in the NDA. He asserted that the coalition headed in the state by Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar was looking forward to meet the "aspirations" of people in the decade to follow, having fulfilled their "needs" in the preceding one.
Altogether 12 rallies were addressed by the Prime Minister, on whom the NDA banks for performing well in the 243 assembly constituencies across the state. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi also addressed election meetings at Madhepura and Araria where he raised suspicions of poll rigging dubbing the EVMs as MVMs (Modi voting machines), drawing jeers from the BJP which claimed the opposition leader had lost his nerves in the face of an impending defeat.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s rallies continued to be in the news for unsavoury happenings. At an election rally in Madhubani, stones and onions were hurled towards the dais, evoking an angry retort from the incumbent "phenko, aur phenko" (carry on with your mischief). RJD chief ministerial candidate Tejashwi Yadav continued with his campaign, drawing enthusiastic crowds at his rallies, numerous in a day.
Poll pundits are, however, of the view that after gaining momentum in the first phase, the RJD-led Grand Alliance has lost some steam in the subsequent ones. The BJP roped in many of its heavyweights for the assembly election campaign. Defence minister Rajnath Singh, party president Jagat Prakash Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were among those who repeatedly flew down to the state urging voters to support the NDA.
People also attended, in heavy numbers, rallies and road shows of LJP president Chirag Paswan who has created a buzz by virtue of his strident criticism of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and the gumption to go solo despite repeated claims of loyalty towards the BJP. The final phase covers the Seemanchal area of the state, densely populated and having a heavy concentration of Muslims.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi, who has joined a six- party coalition headed by RLSP president Upendra Kushwaha and including Mayawati’s BSP, urged the minorities to shun the Congress-RJD combine, blaming these parties for the meteoric rise of the BJP and Modi. Prominent among those who would be seeking to retain their seats in the final phase are Speaker Vijay Kumar Chaudhary and state cabinet ministers Suresh Sharma and Pramod Kumar.
Another candidate who has piqued curiosity is Subhashini Yadav, the Congress candidate from Bihariganj in Kishanganj district, better known as the daughter of veteran socialist leader and former Union minister Sharad Yadav. Armed with an MBA degree in marketing, the 30-year-old has made a sudden plunge into politics. Her assembly segment falls under Madhepura Lok Sabha seat which her father has won a number of times but lost in 2014 and failed to wrest back last year.
Sharad Yadav had been the JD(U)s national president for long and served as the national convenor of the NDA until Nitish Kumar, the partys de facto leader, chose to snap ties with the BJP in 2013. He was stripped of the post a few years later when Kumar became the party president as well, and revolted when the latter did a volte face and returned to the NDA.