PATNA: Of all the candidates in the fray from Bihar for the seventh and last phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha polls, the main focus will be on four Union Ministers who are facing tough battles.
The four Ministers are Ravi Shankar Prasad, Ram Kripal Yadav, Ashwani Choubey and R.K. Singh.
Prasad, the Minister of Electronics and Information Technology and also a Supreme Court lawyer, is contesting from the Patna Sahib constituency which has been a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stronghold since over two decades.
This is the first time that he is contesting the polls. Since 2012, he has been a BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar.
BJP put Prasad in the fray after it denied a ticket to incumbent MP from Patna Sahib, Shatrughan Sinha who is now contesting from the seat for the Congress.
Sinha quit the BJP and joined the Congress on April 6.
Both Prasad and Sinha belong to the upper Kayasth caste, who are present in sizeable numbers in Patna Sahib.
Prasad and the BJP have left no stone unturned for his victory. Party President Amit Shah on May 11 held a roadshow to seek votes for the Union Minister.
Sinha, who is fondly known as 'Bihari Babu', also visited different localities and villages in the constituency despite the scorching heat. Even his wife, Poonam Sinha has campaigned for him in Patna.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi will hold a roadshow on Thursday, urging voters to choose Sinha.
Ram Kripal Yadav, the Minister of State for Rural Development, is contesting from the Pataliputra seat which is a big challenge for him as jailed Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad's elder daughter Misa Bharti is also in the fray.
Misa Bharti, a Rajya Sabha MP, had contested unsuccessfully in the 2014 polls from the seat. She was defeated by Ram Kripal Yadav, who had quit the RJD and joined the BJP after being denied a ticket by Lalu Prasad in favour of his daughter.
Ashwani Choubey, the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, is contesting from the Buxar seat which he won in the 2014 general elections. He is pitted against the RJD's Jagdanand Singh.
Choubey, who is known to be a vocal supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and also a champion of Hindutva politics, is trying hard to seek votes to retain the seat. But except his own Brahmin castemen, other upper castes, especially the Rajputs, are not in his favour.
R.K. Singh, a former IAS officer-turned-politician, is in the fray from the Arrah constituency, considered a Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) stronghold.
A Rajput, the BJP candidate is in a direct fight with CPI-ML candidate Raju Yadav, supported by the RJD and the Grand Alliance in the state.
With Raju in the fray, Singh has taken help from some tainted and criminal-turned-politicians belonging to the powerful Bhumihar upper caste, to woo voters. But the main problem is that ally Janata Dal-United leader Meena Singh has distanced herself from him.
Elections will be held for the Nalanda, Patna Sahib, Pataliputra, Arrah, Buxar, Sasaram, Karakat, Jahanabad constituencies in the last phase on May 19.