Opposition leaders in Bihar have alleged that staggering the Lok Sabha elections in the state over seven phases would help the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
Last Sunday, the Election Commission announced that polling in four constituencies in Bihar would take place on April 11. Over the next four phases (on April 18, 23, 29 and May 6), votes would be cast for five seats each. Eight seats would go to polls in each of the final two phases (May 12 and 19).
For instance, Aurangabad, Gaya, Nawada, and Jamui would go to polls the first phase. The NDA is in a good position in these seats, said analysts.
The BJP's Sushil Kumar is likely to contest from his seat, Aurangabad. His is considered to be stronger than his rival, Nikhil Kumar of the Indian National Congress.
The Nawada seat, currently represented by Union Minister of State for Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises Giriraj Singh, might go to the BJP’s ally, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Veena Devi of the LJP is likely to contest from this seat.
Gaya is another stronghold of the BJP. Party sources said it might field a new face from here. LJP’s Chirag Paswan might have faced a tough fight in Jamui, but he is likely to move to Hajipur, as his father Ram Vilas Paswan, Union Cabinet minister for food, consumer affairs and public distribution, has decided to not seek re-election. “The schedule has been made in such a manner that it is likely to help the BJP,” said Rashtriya Janata Dal Vice-President Shivanand Tiwary. He added, “This gives more than enough time for electioneering to the BJP and the JD(U). In Tamil Nadu, which has 39 Lok Sabha seats, elections will be held for all on April 18. Why can’t this be done for Bihar as well?”
Bihar sends 40 parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha.
Tiwary said the BJP had been given time to be better prepared in constituencies where they are facing a fight.
The BJP has, however, denied the allegations. “Grand Alliance members, particularly the RJD, seem frusturated and nervous. This is why they are abusing the EC,” said BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand.
In the second phase, the NDA hopes to gain in Purnea, Bhagalpur, and Banka. The JD(U)’s Santosh Kushwaha will once again contest from Purnea. Sources said Chief Minister Nitish Kumar might field Putul Devi, widow of late Digvijay Sinh, in Banka.
The BJP also expects to make gains in Bhagalpur, which was in news last years due to communal clashes. The NDA is expecting a tough fight in East Chamaparan, West Chamaparan, Sheohar, Gopalganj, Buxar, Karakat, Jehanabad, Patliputra, and Sasaram.
Sources in political circles said the RJD is planning to “offer” Gopalganj to the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). This might create problems for the BJP. Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh could also face a serious challenge in East Chamapran. RJD chief Lalu Prasad’s daughter Misa Bharti is likely to be a strong contender in Patliputra.