Stakes are high for the ruling Janata Dal (United) and Congress-RJD-led Mahagathbandhan in the five seats going to polls in the phase 2 of the Lok sabha polls in Bihar on Thursday, with all eyes on three seats in Seemanchal region comprising Kishanganj, Purnea and Katihar, which dominated largely by Muslims and EBCs.
A total of 86, 01,530 lakh voters would exercise their franchise to decide the fate of 68 candidates in the fray from the five seats.
For the Congress, the three seats in Seemanchal were in focus this time, with party president Rahul Gandhi having addressed two rallies in Purnea and Katihar even as senior Congress leader Navjot Singh Siddhu stirred a controversy by making a speech with religious overtones at Katihar on Tuesday. The Katihar administration has lodged a case against Siddhu even as the Election Commission has taken note of the speech.
Among the prominent candidates whose fate would be decided by voters in five seats are sitting Katihar MP and Congress nominee Tariq Anwar, sitting Bhagalpur MP and RJD nominee Shailesh Kumar alias Bulo Mandal, sitting Banka MP and RJD nominee Jay Prakash Narayan Yadav and sitting Purnea MP and JD(U) nominee Santosh Kumar.
Others in the fray include former MP and Congress nominee from Purnea Uday Singh, Congress nominee from Kishanganj Mohammed Jawaid, former MP and independent candidate from Banka Putul Kumari and former MLA Aktarul Iman from AIMIM.
Voter wise, Bhagalpur constituency has the largest number of electorate with 18,11,980 lakh voters while the smallest electorate is in Katihar, having a voter population of 16,45,713 lakh.
The state administration and election commission has made elaborate arrangements to ensure free and fair polls by deploying more than 32,000 policemen, including 17,000 central armed police force( CAPF) personnel.
The Indo-Nepal border across Kishanganj has been sealed, with vehicles entering through check posts being thoroughly searched in view of the polling.
All entry from Bengal side has also been restricted in view of the election. Choppers have been pressed into service to carry out aerial surveys in remote Maoist-hit and riverine areas, especially in two extremist hit areas Katoria and Belhar falling in Banka Lok Sabha constituency. Polling in these two areas would be from 7 am to 4 pm.
“Every polling station will have at least 10 armed and 10 unarmed policemen. Likewise, similar deployment would also be seen around the polling stations and nearby villages to avoid any chances of clashes and spats between rival groups,” a police officer said.
D M Diwakar, former director of AN Sinha Institute of Social Sciences, said that since the five constituencies are largely dominated by Muslim population, there were chances that secular votes would get consolidated.
Though this election has witnessed local issues taking a back seat with the poll debate veering mostly on BJP and anti-BJP fight, the five seats could see polarisation and also voting on caste lines.
JD(U) and RJD have the challenge of increasing their tally in this round. In 2014, the five seats had thrown mixed results. While the JD(U) , having contested alone after severing ties with BJP, had managed to win Purnea, Congress and RJD as alliance partners had won the Kishanganj, Bhagalpur and Banka seats. NCP had won the Katihar seat.
Apr 18, 2019 12:36 IST