Campaigning ended on Saturday for the five Bihar Lok Sabha seats of Begusarai, Munger, Ujiyarpur, Samastipur and Darbhanga which go to the polls in the fourth phase on April 29.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a rally at Darbhanga where he defended his use of national security as a poll plank and came down heavily on the reluctance of local RJD candidate Abdul Bari Siddiqui, whom he did not mention by name, to recite the national song Vande Mataram.
Currently held by Kirti Azad, who has now joined Congress and is contesting from Dhanbad in neighbouring Jharkhand, Darbhanga is being contested by former BJP MLA Gopalji Thakur.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi shared the stage with RJD heir apparent Tejashwi Yadav at a rally in Samastipur ending speculations of discord between the two alliance partners.
At Samastipur Congress candidate Ashok Kumar is pitted against sitting MP Ram Chandra Paswan, who is the younger brother of Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan.
The rally was also attended by RLSP chief Upendra Kushwaha, who is in the fray from adjoining Ujiyarpur currently held by state BJP chief Nityanand Rai.
BJP president Amit Shah also held rallies at Ujiyarpur, Begusarai and Munger the last being the only seat in the fourth phase which is being contested by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s JD(U).
The cynosure of all eyes in this phase, however, is the Begusarai seat which will witness an electrifying contest between the political Left and the Right with CPI debutant Kanhaiya Kumar taking on firebrand BJP leader Giriraj Singh.
Lying vacant since the death of sitting MP Bhola Singh a few months ago, Begusarai also has RJDs Tanveer Hassan, who had finished runner up five years ago in the fray.
While the campaign of Singh, a union minister, who has moved from Nawada, was marked by his own hyper-nationalistic speeches which have drawn the ire of opposition parties, it is the Left underdog whose canvassing brought national spotlight on the mofussil town.
Seeking to erase the stigma of a sedition case through a political mandate, the former JNU students union president has tirelessly carried out a door-to-door campaign besides holding countless small to medium-sized meetings in which he sought to underscore his humble roots by speaking in the local dialect and position himself as one conversant with politics at all levels from local to international.
On the day of filing nominations, supporters from far-off places including Bollywood actress Swara Bhaskar, civil rights activist Teesta Setalwad, Dalit MLA from Gujarat Jignesh Mevani and Jammu and Kashmir-based fellow JNU alumnus Shehla Rashid were in Begusarai to canvass in his support.
Others who have toured the riparian district in support of the 32-year-old include Bollywood celebrities Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi and Prakash Raj, Swaraj India founder Yogendra Yadav besides top Left leaders like Sitaram Yechury and Sudhakar Reddy.
Yechury also campaigned in Ujiyarpur where his CPI(M) has fielded a candidate.
Renowned motivational speaker and author Shiv Khera campaigned in Begusarai for Giriraj Singh and is expected to do the same for some more NDA candidates in the state.
About 100 writers and poets around Bihar, including Sahitya Akademi winner Arun Kamal and Hindi poets Alok Dhanwa and Khagendra Thakur have issued a joint statement appealing to the people of Begusarai to give the young CPI candidate a chance.