PATNA: Stakes are high for the ruling BJP-led NDA in the eight Bihar constituencies in the penultimate phase on Sunday as it aims to retain all the seats that it had won in the 2014 polls.
For the opposition's Grand Alliance, it is a win-win situation as it eyes to gain some seats with nothing to lose.
The Bhojpuri-speaking north Bihar belt will go to the polls on May 12, when more than 1.38 lakh voters will decide the fate of 127 candidates in Gopalganj, Siwan, Maharajganj, East Champaran, West Champaran, Valmiki Nagar, Sheohar and Vaishali.
In the fray will be several NDA stalwarts, including Union Minister Radha Mohan Singh (BJP candidate from East Champaran), Rama Devi (BJP candidate from Sheohar) and Janardhan Singh Sigriwal (BJP candidate from Maharajganj). Rama Devi is aiming for a hat-trick.
In 2014, the BJP and its ally LJP, had won all eight seats thanks to the Modi wave. However, this time around the caste equations have changed on the ground as also there is no clear wave. The NDA faces an uphill task unlike what had been in the last five concluded phases.
The ruling BJP-JD-U are fighting the elections together this time. The Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal-United had contested the 2014 polls alone.
As per the seat-sharing formula, the NDA is contesting from Siwan, Valmiki Nagar and Gopalganj. The BJP has ceded its winning seats for the JD-U.
The electoral contest in East Champaran and Valmiki Nagar are between political greenhorns and heavy-weights.
East Champaran (Motihari)
All the eyes are on Radha Mohan Singh, a veteran and a sitting MP, facing challenge from young Akash Singh, Grand Alliance candidate (RLSP).
If the 69-year-old Unon Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, is seeking support saying it is his last Lok Sabha polls, while the 27-year-old son of senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Akhilesh Prasad Singh is facing the hussles for the first time
Akash Singh has requested voters to give him a chance to make a difference. His father had defeated Radha Mohan Singh in the 2004 polls from the same seat. However, in 2009 and 2014 Radha Mohan Singh won the seat.
The battle in East Champaran is between the old and young. But in caste-ridden Bihar politics, their presence in the fray has divided the two powerful upper caste. If Rajputs are openly supporting Radha Mohan Singh, the Bhumihars are supporting Akash Singh.
Here the fight is triangular between JD-U heavyweight Baidyabath Kushwaha, Congress' Shashwat Kedar and BSP's Deepak Yadav.
Kushwaha had won the seat in 2009 but was defeated in 2014 by BJP's Satish Chandra Dubey, who was denied ticket by the party this time as the seat went to ally JD-U.
Shashwat Kedar, 32, an alumnus of the elite Mayo College, Ajmer, is the grandson of veteran Congress leader and former Chief Minister Kedar Pandey. He is heavily banking on Brahmins, who have a sizeable population and once were known as the traditional supporter of the party.
The Congress is hopeful of its revival in its erstwhile stronghold.
The third contestant -- Bahujan Samaj Party's Deepak Yadav, is yet again a young dynamic Harvard alumnus. He owns a sugar mill in the area and is the richest candidate in the fray not only in Valmiki Nagar but in this sixth phase of polls.
Another constituency with more or less a similar situation is Maharajganj, where BJP sitting MP Janardhan Singh Sigriwal is facing challenge from an young Randhur Singh of Rashtriya Janata Dal. Both are from powerful Rajput caste. The battle is between two Rajputs.
Sigriwal is a former Bihar Minister and four-time MLA. Up against him is debutante Randhir, son of four time jailed former MP Prabhunath Singh, a 'Bahubali' a muscle man.
Here the fight is directly between two Rajputs -- RJD's Raghuvansh Prasad Singh, former Union Minister, who faces challenge from Lok Janshakti Party' Veena Devi, wife of his former political aide Dinesh Singh.
It's a battle with a difference. Siwan is witnessing a contest between the better halves of two Bahubalis and CPI (ML) veteran, who is trying to make it triangular.
After unsuccessfully contesting twice, Hina Sahab, 46, wife of jailed former MP Mohammad Shahabuddin, is going all out to win the Siwan constituency -- once an undisputed Shahabuddin stronghold.
Her prime challenger is Kavita Singh, 33, a Janata Dal-United (JD-U) candidate and wife of Ajay Singh, another 'Bahubali'. She is a sitting legislator from the Daraundha Assembly seat and is contesting her first Lok Sabha polls.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist's (CPI-ML) Amarnath Yadav is also in the race from Siwan.
Here BJP's Rama Devi, widow of late 'Bahubali' Brij Bihari Prasad is facing challenge from RJD's Syed Faisal Ali, a journalist, who is contesting the polls for the first time. Rama Devi had won the seat twice.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made with adequate paramilitary personnel deployed in all the parliamentary constituencies with surveillance mounted on drones, officials said.
The Indo-Nepal border, lying along a few of the constituencies set to vote on Sunday, was sealed on Saturday.
Apart from Meenapur, Paru and Sahibganj Assembly segments in Vaishali Lok Sabha constituency and Valmiki Nagar and Ramnagar Assembly segments of the Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha seat, where polling will end at 4 p.m., all the other seats will have normal poll time from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.