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In Bihar’s 5 Seemanchal Seats, Minority Votes and Rural-Urban Factors Will be the Key

In Bihar’s 5 Seemanchal Seats, Minority Votes and Rural-Urban Factors Will be the Key

Although caste arithmetic often plays a crucial role in Bihar polls, this time it is the polling patterns from three previous Lok Sabha elections and last state assembly elections that will play an important role.

Bihar will go to the polls in five out of the 40 constituencies in the second phase of Lok Sabha elections today. While the BJP-JDU alliance is in power in the state since July 2017, it is Congress-RJD that hold a significant edge over these five seats.

All the five poll-bund constituencies—Kishanganj, Katihar, Purnia, Bhagalpur and Banka—are rural seats. At present, the Congress and RJD hold four seats and the JDU is in charge of one seat. A total of 68 candidates are in fray from 16 national and regional political parties or as independents.

While the BJP is not contesting in any of these constituencies, its ally JDU is in a direct battle with the Congress-RJD. The reason behind this seat-sharing arrangement could be the defeat of all of BJP candidates in 2014 elections in these constituencies. The vote share for the party was also not satisfactory in these seats.

Battle of Alliances, Demographics and Caste Matrix

From the grand alliance, Congress and RJD are contesting in three and two constituencies respectively. The Congress will be fighting in Kishanganj, Katihar and Purnia and the RJD is contesting in Bhagalpur and Banka.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress had won Kishanganj and Katihar seats with an average vote share of 48.6 per cent, while its ally RJD had won Bhagalpur and Banka with an average vote share of 34.7 per cent. The JD(U) managed to win Purnia seat by bagging a 41.2 per cent vote share.

Although caste arithmetic often plays a crucial role in Bihar polls, the statistics of polling patterns in previous three Lok Sabha elections and the last state assembly elections in 2015 for these five constituencies will play an important role this time.

Among these constituencies, Kisahnganj and Katihar are Muslim-dominated seats. Both have 94 per cent and 83 per cent rural population respectively. In the 2014 elections, the Congress had bagged both the seats.

Congress leader Mohammad Asrarul Haque bagged 4,93,461 votes (53.1 per cent vote share) and defeated BJP’s Dilip Kumar Jaiswal, who got 298,849 votes (32.2 per cent vote share) in Kishanganj. But in these elections, Congress’s Dr. Mohammad Jawed is contesting against JDU’s Syed Mahmood Ashraf from this seat. The constituency has almost 65 to 70 per cent Muslim population.

Congress candidate Tariq Anwar had won Katihar constituency with 431,292 votes (44.1 per cent vote share). The runner up candidate, BJP leader Nikhil Kumar Choudhary, managed to fetch 32.4 per cent votes. The grand old party’s incumbent MP Tariq Anwar is again locked in a fight with JDU’s Dulal Chandra Goswami. Katihar’s minorities include Muslims and the SC/ST population.

From Purnia, JDU’s incumbent MP Santosh Kumar had defeated BJP’s Uday Singh alias Pappu Singh in 2014. The candidates got 418,826 votes (41.2 per cent vote share) and 302,157 votes (29.7 vote share) respectively. Kumar is contesting again from this seat while Uday Singh, contesting this time on a Congress ticket, is his opponent. About 88 per cent population in Purnia is rural.

In Bhagalpur and Banka constituencies, Congress’s current ally RJD had defeated the BJP in 2014. In both the constituencies, rural population constitutes 79 per cent and 95 per cent respectively. RJD candidate Shailesh Kumar had bagged 3,67,623 votes and defeated senior BJP senior leader and former cabinet minister Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, Hussain could manage only 3,58,138 votes.

This time, the BJP has decided not to field Hussain from Bhagalpur. Ajay Kumar Mandal from the JDU and RJD’s sitting MP Shailesh Kumar alias Vulo Mandal are contesting from this seat.

In Banka, JDU candidate Giridhari Yadav and RJD’s sitting MP Jai Prakash Narayan Yadav are in the fray. In 2014, Yadav won this seat with 285,150 votes.

Most of these constituencies fall in Seemanchal. The NDA in this Muslim-dominated region faces a tough challenge and the party is trying to strike a chord in the area by harping on the development agenda. That’s why BJP and JD(U) have found it difficult to make inroads in these constituencies.

2015 Results Favour Grand Alliance

There are a total of 30 state assembly segments which fall in these five Lok Sabha seats.

An analysis shows that as per the seat-sharing arrangement, the JDU-BJP vote share in 30 assembly segments is less than the votes polled by Congress-RJD together.

If we look at party-wise seats and vote share of 2015 Bihar state election, Congress held nine assembly seats with 42.1 per cent average vote share. Congress’ ally RJD had then got five seats and its average vote share was 43.94 per cent. Rival BJP held five seats and its ally JDU won 10 seats with average vote share of 48.3 per cent and 40.71 per cent, respectively. CPI (ML) could manage to win only one seat in these 30 state assembly segments.

The Congress, which is locked in a fight with JDU from three constituencies—Kishanganj, Katihar and Purnia—had won seven assembly seats out of the 18, with an average of 42.02 per cent vote share. The JDU got four seats only and its average vote share was 39.81 per cent.

The rest of the 12 assembly seats come under Bhagalpur and Banka Lok Sabha constituencies from where RJD and JDU are locked in a battle. Both parties had won four assembly seats each, with an average vote share of 44.1 per cent and 42.37 per cent respectively.