The Kosi region may be considered a virtual NDA bastion,but the RJD and Congress look set to make an opening here,courtesy the Yadav vote and a hint of Rajput polarisation because of the Congress fielding Lovely Anand.
What may upset the RJD and Congress calculations,however,is how the 30 per cent Pachpanias (a group of Extremely Backward and Scheduled Castes) vote. With his ultra-Dalit schemes,Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has made them his new constituency,and it is their vote that tilted the balance heavily in favour of the NDA in the last Lok Sabha polls. The Congresss Ranjeet Ranjan,as a result,had managed only the second spot at Supaul despite her popularity and the Rahul factor.
Many heavyweights from the JD(U) are in the fray from here,including ministers Narendra Narayan Yadav (Alamnagar) and Renu Kushwaha (Bihariganj). The most-watched battles will take place in Alamnagar and Bihariganj,where the sitting ministers take on Congresss Lovely Anand (wife of convicted ex-MP Anand Mohan) and Ranjeet Ranjan (wife of convicted ex-MP Pappu Yadav),respectively.
Another contest the Congress is keenly watching is at the Simri Bakhtiyarpur seat,where its state president Choudhary Mehboob Ali Qaiser is aiming at a fourth victory. He faces two Yadavs from rival parties JD(U) and RJD.
The Pachpania vote may prove crucial if Ranjan is to win. Getting only Gopes (Yadavs) and a sizeable Muslim chunk might not be good enough as the RJD eyes the same vote bank, says Pankaj Kumar,a Madhepura resident.
Lovely Anand,on the contrary,is purely banking on the Rajputs rallying behind her a hope many see as wishful. Despite Alamnagar being a Rajput-dominated seat,with minimal Yadav presence,veteran JD(U) leader Narendra Narayan Yadav has won past four elections from here. Says Ravi Prakash Singh,an Alamnagar voter: Why vote for Lovely? Anand Mohan had ceased to be our leader the day he had joined hands with Lalu.
Narendra Narain claims he is confident of winning as he banks on support across caste and community lines. Let my opponents work on caste.
A safe bet for the Congress is Nirmali seat in Supaul,where its nominee Vijay Gupta seems ahead of JD(U)s Aruna Mehta and RJDs A P Yadav.
The RJDs hopes rest on Madhepura and Singheshwar (SC) seats. Madhepura RJD candidate Chandrashekhar (Yadav) is banking on his image of a committed RJD worker against Sharad Yadavs nominee R R Yadav Ravi. But the Madhepura battle is basically a contest for Yadav votes between Lalu and Sharad as they say here,Rome Pope ka,Madhepura Gope ka. And while nobody is willing to talk about it,Sharad may hold the upper hand this time,courtesy the Pachpanias.
In Saharsa,the story is different,with Independents and a BJP rebel Independent making it tough for the NDA. The result is a slight edge for the RJDs Arun Yadav.