As 42 Assembly seats across the eight districts of Bhagalpur,Banka,Khagaria,Begusarai,Lakhisarai,Munger,Jamui and Patna go to the polls on Monday,the upper castes seem to have tipped the balance in favour of the NDA .
This,despite hectic efforts by JD-U rebel MP from Munger Rajiv Ranjan alias Lalan Singh to deflect their votes,particularly of Bhumihars,from the JD-U to the Congress. Another rebel JD-U MP (Begusarai),Monazir Hasan,too,has made a bid to spoil Chief Minister Nitish Kumars party by fielding wife Shabnam Parveen from the Munger Assembly seat on RJD ticket.
The upper caste votes hold key to at least 20 Assembly seats in Begusarai,Lakhisarai,Jamui and Banka. The NDA which won 28 of 43 seats (now 42) in the 2005 Assembly election is at a firm footing with voters apparently taken in by Nitishs development factor.
The RJD-LJP combine that bagged 10 seats last time,can expect a marginal gain of two to three seats in Bhagalpur and Banka. The NDA can expect to compensate for the losses in Begusarai at the seats held by the CPI.
Altogether 568 candidates,including 58 women,are in the fray. Heavyweights in this round are RJD-LJP deputy CM nominee and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswans brother Pashupati Paras (Alauli) against JD-Us Ramchandra Sada. Ministers Nandkihore Yadav (BJP) is pitted against RJDs Rajesh Kumar at Patna Sahib,Ashwini Kumar Choubey (BJP) against LJPs N K Yadav at Bhagalpur,Damodar Rawat (JD-U) against Vinod Yadav at Jhajha,Ramanand Singh (JD-U) against Samrat Choudhary at Parbatta and Deputy Assembly Speaker Shakuni Choudhary (RJD) against Nita Choudhary at Tarapur.
Former Assembly Speaker Sadanand Singh (Congress) JD-Us is contesting against Kahkashan Parvin. JD-U has put up candidates on 25 seats and BJP on 17 seats in this phase. The RJD has fielded 26 candidates and LJP 16. Four Patna town seats Kumhrar,Patna Sahib,Bankipore and Digha will be the real test cases of Nitishs development factor.
The JD-U that wrested the Digha (earlier Patna West) seat from partner BJP might well have erred in choosing low-profile and outsider Poonam Devi here.
BJP rebel candidate Harendra Pratap Singh,as an Independent candidate,doesnt seem to be serving the JD-U cause.
The BJP,however,continues to have an edge over others at the three other Patna seats,with only the Congress offering some resistance at Kumhrar seat. Here,the partys Kapildev Prasad Yadav pitted against sitting BJP MLA Arun Sinha.
The NDA can romp home in Bakhtiyarpur,Barh and Mokama,while RJD can hope to get Fatuha.
Begusarai,where the NDA got just two seats last time,can be better this time with the JD-U having an advantage at Matihani,Cheria Bariarpur and Sahebpur Kamal.