PATNA: The stage is set for the second and, arguably, the most crucial of the three phases of Bihar assembly elections in which over 2.85 crore voters will decide the fate of nearly 1,500 candidates on Tuesday.
Voting will take place on November 3 in 94 assembly segments, more than a third of the 243-strong assembly spread across 17 districts, all of which but three -- Patna, Bhagalpur and Nalanda -- are situated north of the Ganges.
Notable among the candidates is the RJD's Tejashwi Yadav, the opposition Grand Alliance's Chief Ministerial candidate, who has been aggressively trying to cash in on the anti-incumbency factor against the Nitish Kumar government.
The 31-year-old is seeking re-election from Raghopur in Vaishali district which he had wrested back for his party from the BJP's Satish Kumar in 2015.
The BJP leader had defeated Yadav's mother Rabri Devi, a former chief minister, in 2010.
The BJP has retained its trust in Satish Kumar, hoping that the giant killer will be able to do a repeat of 2010 when, like this time, JD(U) president and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was with the NDA.
Tejashwi's elder brother Tej Pratap Yadav is trying his luck from Hasanpur in Samastipur district, shifting his base from Mahua in Vaishali.
There were said to be fears in the RJD camp that Tej Pratap's bid to retain Mahua could be challenged by the NDA through his estranged wife Aishwarya as its trump card.
She is already taking an active part in the campaign for her father Chandrika Roy in Parsa, which he has represented a number of times and is seeking to retain on a JD(U) ticket this time.
All the four assembly segments in the capital city Patna Sahib, Kumhrar, Bankipur and Digha are also going to polls in the second phase.
All these are held by the BJP.
State minister Nand Kishore Yadav is in the fray trying to retain Patna Sahib for a seventh consecutive term.
Multiple-term MLA Nitin Nabin faces a challenge in Bankipur from Congress candidate Luv Sinha, who is the son of actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, a two-time local MP who lost the seat when he entered the fray after quitting the BJP.
The BJP has retained as its candidates Arun Sinha and Sanjiv Chaurasia for Kumhrar and Digha respectively.
Seven constituencies of Nalanda district, to which Chief Minister Nitish Kumar belongs, also go to polls in the second phase.
Barring Hilsa, represented by the RJD's Shakti Singh Yadav, and Bihar Sharif, which two-term MLA Sunil Kumar retained on a BJP ticket in 2015, all the remaining five were won by the JD(U).
The assembly segment named after the district is represented by state minister Shrawan Kumar who is seeking re-election from the seat.
The JD(U) has suffered a setback in the reserved Rajgir seat where its sitting MLA Ravi Jyoti, a former police inspector, is now the fray on a Congress ticket.
Two other ministers Ram Sevak Singh (JDU) and Rana Randhir Singh (BJP) are trying their luck from Hathua and Madhuban in Gopalganj and East Champaran districts respectively.
The ministers are sitting MLAs from the respective seats.
Many bahubalis or their wives, sons, brothers or other close relatives are also contesting a number of seats.
Of the 1,463 candidates in the fray on the 94 seats, nearly 10 per cent (146) are women.
Among the 2.85 crore voters, females account for 1.35 crore.
Maharajganj has the maximum number of 27 candidates for any constituency while Darauli (04) has the lowest.
Among the major parties, the RJD is contesting 56 of the 94 seats while its ally Congress is contesting 24.
The CPI and CPI(M), which joined the Grand Alliance recently, are fighting four seats each.
Quite a few seats are being contested by the CPI(ML), the Left outfit with the strongest presence in Bihar.
BJP candidates are in the fray in 46 of the seats, while another 43 are being contested by those with JD(U) tickets.
Mukesh Sahni's VIP, the latest entrant in the NDA, is contesting the remaining five.
The LJP is contesting 52 seats, including the two it had won in 2015 contesting as an NDA constituent.
The party has fielded one transgender candidate too in this phase.
The bid of Raju Tiwari and Raj Kumar Sah to retain Govindganj and Lalganj respectively is being challenged by the BJP.
According to the Election Commission, votes will be cast at a total of 41,362 polling stations.