Campaign ended on Sunday for five Lok Sabha seats in Bihar’s Madhepura, Supaul, Araria, Jhanjharpur and Khagaria all of which go to polls in the third phase of general elections on April 23. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi held rallies at Araria and Supaul respectively, barely 50 kilometres apart, on the penultimate day of campaigning on Saturday.
In Madhepura, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh held a rally about a fortnight ago. The BJPs ally JD(U), headed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, has fielded state minister Dinesh Chandra Yadav from the seat named after the district, which also happens to be the birthplace of Mandal Commission architect B P Mandal.
Yadav is engaged in a three-cornered contest with Pappu Yadav, who won the seat for RJD five years ago but later got expelled by the party and Sharad Yadav who was the runner-up for the JD-U last time but is contesting on the RJD symbol this time.
The seat has become a prestige issue for Nitish Kumar who stayed several consecutive nights in the district, covering other constituencies during the daytime, understandably preparing strategy to ensure that his candidate does not lose to associate-turned-adversary Sharad Yadav, who revolted when the party boss decided to return to the BJP-led NDA a couple of years ago.
Araria is held by RJDs Sarfaraz Alam, who won in a by-election necessitated by the death of his father Mohd Taslmuddin a local strongman. The BJP has retained its faith in former MP Pradip Singh, though he sustained a huge defeat in 2014 and failed to wrest it back in the by-poll.
In Supaul, the cohesiveness of the opposition ‘Mahagathbandhan’ is being tested as sitting MP Ranjeet Ranjan of the Congress is facing rebellion from a local RJD leader contesting as an Independent and enjoying support of the local unit.
The bone of contention between the two parties has been Pappu Yadav, married to the Congress MP, defending his Madhepura seat against the RJD candidate.
In Jhanjharpur, the BJP gave up its sitting seat in favour of the JD(U), which has fielded Ram Prit Mandal, who is locked in a virtual straight contest with Gulab Yadav of RJD.
In Khagaria, sitting MP Mehboob Ali Kaiser, fielded by Ram Vilas Paswan’s LJP is being challenged by Mukesh Sahni for the opposition alliance. He gave up his career of Bollywood set designer to emerge as a leader of the sizeable Nishad community.