Ignoring heat wave-like conditions, 58.92 per cent voters turned out to cast their votes in Bihar’s five Lok Sabha constituencies that went to polls on Monday, till 5 pm, said an official.
Polling was held in Begusarai, Ujiarpur, Darbhanga, Munger and Samastipur seats.
“Long queues were seen at polling booths in rural as well as urban pockets of these constituencies despite heat wave-like conditions,” the official said, adding that women queued up in large numbers outside polling booths in the initial three hours of voting.
The five constituencies Begusarai, Darbhanga, Ujiyarpur, Samastipur and Munger had been won by the NDA in 2014 with the BJP bagging the first three and Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP winning the rest.
More than 87 lakh voters are eligible to decide the fate of 67 candidates, including 3 women.
BJP nominee Gopalji Thakur has been pitted against senior RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui from Darbhanga.
Siddiqui, former state finance minister, hopes to get the support of RJD’s traditional vote base of Ahirs and Muslims. Besides, Mukesh Sahani of the Vikasheel Insan Party is said to have some influence in Darbhanga on Mallah caste (boatmen and fishermen tribes) which may prove helpful for the Opposition Alliance.
In 2014 Kirti Azad of the BJP, who has now joined Congress, had defeated RJD’s four-time MP Mohammad Ali Ashraf Fatmi from the seat by a margin of 34,000 votes.
BJP gave the ticket to local MLA and senior state-level party functionary Gopalji Thakur from Darbhanga after Kirti Azad joined Congress party.
Begusarai is also gearing up to see a three-cornered contest on April 29 between CPI’s candidate Kanhaiya Kumar, firebrand BJP leader, and Union minister Giriraj Singh and RJD’s Tanveer Hassan.
Giriraj Singh was shifted to Begusarai after his Nawada seat went to Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP under the seat-sharing formula in the NDA. Giriraj was earlier reluctant to contest from the seat but after BJP leaders including party chief, Amit Shah intervened he accepted the offer.
While all the three candidates are being seen as strong contenders, political analysts do not rule out the possibility of a split in votes as two political heavyweights – Kanhaiya Kumar and Giriraj Singh belonging to the same caste (Bhumihar) are locked in a do or die battle.
As per an assessment, there are about 4 lakh Bhumihar voters in Begusarai followed by 2.5 lakh Muslim voters. Bhumihar is a dominant community in the constituency.
The Ujiyarpur Lok Sabha seat is witnessing a tough fight between Nityanand Rai, state unit president of the BJP and a prominent face of Ahirs in Bihar, and Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief Upendra Kushwaha, the sitting MP of Karakat, who has chosen it as his second seat because of the nearly three lakh OBC Koeri population.
Of the constituency’s six Assembly segments, the RJD and JD(U) had won three seats each in the 2015 Assembly polls.
While in 2014, Nityanand had won the seat beating the RJD’s Alok Mehta, Upendra hopes for caste votes of 1 lakh-odd Muslims, around 1.5 lakh Ahirs and about 3 lakh Koeri voters.
Ajay Kumar of the CPI(M) is trying to make the contest a triangular one.
Interestingly, Nityanand and Upendra, had campaigned for each other in the 2014 parliamentary election. During the last election, Upendra was part of the NDA but left the alliance as his party was offered two seats in place of three they demanded.
JD(U) has fielded Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s close aide and state minister Rajiv Ranjan alias Lallan Singh in Munger. Neelam Devi is the candidate of Congress, a part of Opposition Alliance led by the RJD.
Neelam Devi is the wife of Anant Singh, one of Bihar’s don-turned-politicians and a two-time legislator from Barh, now incarcerated. His wife is debuting on behalf of the RJD led Opposition Alliance, riding on the political popularity and influence of her husband in the Bhumihar community. Anant Singh, once close to Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, parted ways with him in 2018 when he was sent to jail in connection with a murder case at the insistence of RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
Nitish Kumar’s candidate, minister for water resources, Rajeev Ranjan, also belonging to the same community as that of Neelam, canvasses on the reputation of the chief minister built on ‘proven’ development initiatives.
This time, the sitting LJP MP of Munger, Veena Devi, wife of another heavyweight muscleman, Surajbhan Singh, is not in the fray, but she is supporting Lallan.
The Samastipur Lok Sabha seat falls within the Mithilanchal and Vajjika region of Bihar. The seat is going to witness a poll battle between the sitting MP Ram Chandra Paswan of the LJP and Ashok Kumar of the Congress.
In 2014 Parliamentary polls, Ram Chandra, who got 2,70,401 (31.33 per cent) votes, triumphed over Ashok Kumar, who secured 2,63,529 (30.53 per cent) votes. In 2014, the constituency hit the headlines after None of the Above (NOTA) polled around 30,000 votes.
In the first phase, voting took place in 4 seats while in second and third phase 5 seats went in to poll. The voting in the remaining 22 seats will be held in the remaining phases from May 6 to May 19.
The voting is taking place through Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) and VVPAT (Voter-verified paper audit trail) machines at every polling booth. Voting in the remaining 22 Lok Sabha constituencies of the state will be held in the remaining phases from May 6 to May 19. The counting of votes will take place on May 23 and the same day results will be declared.
In 2014 general elections, the BJP had won 23 while the Congress had just managed to win two seats. RJD and JDU won 4 and 2 seats respectively. Meanwhile, The Lok Sabha polls in the country are taking place in seven phases between April 11 and May 19.