Patna, October 26
Curtain came down on Monday over campaign for 71 assembly segments of Bihar which go to polls on October 28, in the first phase of elections.
Leading the NDA charge, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew down to address as many as three rallies where he urged the voters to vote Chief Minister Nitish Kumar back to power.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi, whose party is contesting the elections in alliance with Lalu Prasads RJD and three Left parties, also chipped in with two rallies.
The BJPs quest for dominance over the states political scene, evident from a seat-sharing deal as part of which it clinched nearly as many constituencies as the JD(U) its senior partner so far- resonated during the election campaign.
Modi, as also other BJP star campaigners like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and party president Jagat Ptakash Nadda repeatedly cited Ram temple at Ayodhya, scrapping of Article 370 and law against triple talaq as achievements of the government at the Centre and attacked the opposition for opposing these.
The 69 years old Chief Minister, who is also the JD(U) president and is seeking a fourth term in power, carried out a strenuous campaign which began with a series of virtual rallies and has been followed by dozens of election meetings where he has been physically present, including two where he shared the stage with the Prime Minister.
The normally unflappable Nitish Kumar made news on more than one occasion for losing his cool and snapping at protesters from the opposition camp who turned up at his rallies raising slogans.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who has been named by his party as its Chief Ministerial candidate, also ran an indefatigable campaign which comprised rallies, video messages relayed through the social media and press conferences.
Massive turnouts and enthusiastic response from the crowds at his rallies have been a surprise for political observers who have underscored that the ambience spoke more of the anti-incumbency than the appeal of the former Deputy CM.
Another huge draw has been Lok Janshakti Party president Chirag Paswan who stunned all with his decision to go solo in the assembly polls.
The 37 years old began campaigning actively rather late, only after the customary mourning after the death of his father Ram Vilas Paswan was over on October 20.
The LJP chief has, thereafter, hit the streets with a vengeance canvassing for his candidates, a sizeable chunk of whom happen to be rebels from the BJP and the JD(U) which he has vowed to dislodge from power in the state while proclaiming loyalty towards the saffron party.
Other prominent leaders who have campaigned in the state so far include Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani, Congress leaders Raj Babbar and Shatrughan Sinha, BSP supremo Mayawati and AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi.
CPI rising star Kanhaiya Kumar also joined the campaign, mainly for candidates of the Left parties.
Besides, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman flew down to release the BJP manifesto which promised, among other things, free corona vaccination.
Many prominent leaders fell prey to the contagion while campaigning, which saw them among large numbers of people without necessary vaccinations. These included Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and former Union ministers Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Syed Shahnawaz Hussain.
Altogether 1066 candidates are in the fray for the first phase of elections, 114 of them females.
The voting in the first phase on Wednesday will decide fate of nearly half-a-dozen ministers of Nitish Kumar cabinet-Krishnandan Varma, Prem Kumar, Jay Kumar Singh, Santosh Kumar Nirala, Vijay Sinha and Ram Narayan Mandal.
The 71 constituencies going to vote on October fall in six districts, including naxal-hit Gaya, Rohtas and Aurangabad.
Among the prominent parties while RJD is contesting on 42 of the 71 seats in the first phase, JD(U) candidates are in 41 constituencies, BJP (29), Congress (21) and LJP nominees are in fray at 41 places. PTI