Polling for third phase of the Bihar Assembly elections kicked off today. Nalanda district, the home turf of chief minister Nitish Kumar, is among the 50 seats that will see some exciting contests today.
Kumar has been taking extra care of the district. From setting up the Nalanda University to the Bihar Police academy, the chief minister has gone the extra mile to develop Nalanda.
The seven seats in Nalanda district will be a litmus test for the Yadav-Kurmi coalition of the Grand Alliance. Political pundits believe that the Muslim-Yadav-Kurmi coalition may work for the Grand Alliance. The National Democratic Alliance, on the other hand, would be eyeing on the upper caste and anti-incumbency voters.
In the 2010 Assembly elections, the JDU and BJP were allies, and six out of seven seats went to JD(U). This time however, the equation is different as Nitish has parted ways with the BJP. This time JD(U) has fielded six candidates, whereas the NDA has fielded three candidates.
Around 20 lakh voters are expected to cast their votes on Wednesday. Candidates in the fray for Nalanda include cops, ministers, comrades and even members of the mafia.
Here are the seven crucial seats:
1) Bihar Sharif
Here the NDA has a strong hand as it has fielded sitting MLA Dr Sunil Kumar, who was earlier with the JD(U). The Grand Alliance has fielded Azgar Shamsi, with an eye on the Muslim votes for this seat. Pappu Yadav's Jan Adhikar Party (JAP) has also fielded a Muslim candidate, Afreen Sultana, who is the wife of former MLA Pappu Khan. It is expected that the JAP will hamper the Grand Alliance's Muslim-Yadav votes and will eventually help the NDA to secure the seat.
In Asthawan, the Grand Alliance has fielded sitting MLA Jitendra Kumar of the JD(U), who will be looking to win the election for the fourth time. The NDA has fielded Lok Janshakti Party's Chote Lal Yadav, whereas JAP has fielded Pramod Kumar who belongs to the same caste as the Grand Alliance candidate.
The BJP has a strong hold over Rajgir. However the JD(U)'s move of fielding former police officer Ravi Jyoti has evoked immense national interest. Jyoti has gathered wide support in the area owing to his massive campaigns over the past few months. The NDA has fielded sitting BJP MLA Satydev Narayan Arya who has won eight consecutive times from the seat.
The Grand Alliance and the NDA in Islampur have fielded a party worker instead of a politician thistime around. The Grand Alliance has fielded Chandra Sen Prasad, while the NDA has fielded Virendra Gop. Both the candidates are considered to be ground-level workers.
The NDA in Hilsa has fielded LJP's Deepika Kumari, who is the wife of Ranjeet Singh alias Ranjeet Don. Kumari will be in close contest with RJD's Shakti Singh Yadav alias Atri Muni, who is a close aide of Lalu. Both Lalu and Nitish have massively campaigned for Shakti. In 2010, JD(U)'s Usha Sinha had won from this seat. The NDA is primarily banking on its allies Hindustani Awam Morcha (secular) and LJP for this seat.
Nalanda is the stronghold of Nitish's minister and close aide Shrawan Kumar. He has been winning in Nalanda since 1995. This year he is expected to put up a tough fight against the NDA candidate Kaushalendra Kumar alias Chote Mukhiya. Political pundits believe that the NDA will be banking on the coalition factor to break Nitish's spell in this seat.
Harnaut is known to be Nitish's home ground. The Grand Alliance has fielded MLA Harinarayan Singh from this seat. The NDA has fielded Arun Bin who had also contested in 2010 from LJP's ticket.