Stakes high for Lalu-Paswan alliance in round two (Poll Curtainraiser - Bihar)

April 22nd, 2009 - 10:15 am ICT by IANS  

Ram Vilas Paswan Patna, April 22 (IANS) It’s a high stakes battle for power in round two of Bihar’s parliamentary polls Thursday with not just several heavyweights in the fray but also the powerful Lalu Prasad-Ram Vilas Paswan combine testing its alliance against Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who is backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Congress has been left to fight it alone in the state, where elections will be spread over four phases.

In round two, 13 of the 40 constituencies are going to the polls, with an electorate of 16.9 million deciding the fate of 189 candidates, including nine women.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) Paswan, who is himself fighting a tough battle from his traditional constituency Hajipur this time, are depending heavily on the caste equation to retain the 10 out of the 13 seats their parties had won in 2004.

The duo is said to enjoy overwhelming support amongst the Yadavs, a powerful backward caste, and the Paswans, a Dalit caste. Besides, they have a base amongst the Muslims too and, for the first time, are trying to win over a section of the upper caste by fielding over half a dozen candidates in the second phase.

Janata Dal-United (JD-U) chief Nitish Kumar is hoping that his gambit of announcing 20 percent reservation for Extreme Backward Castes (EBC) and Maha Dalits will pay off in this round. And, together with its partner BJP, it is aiming at upper caste votes as in the past.

All eyes are on the six union ministers testing the electoral waters — the RJD’s Raghuvansh Prasad Singh from Vaishali, M.A.A. Fatmi from Darbhanga, Akhilesh Prasad Singh from East Champaran, Raghunath Jha from Valmikinagar and Congress’ Shakil Ahmad from Madhubani.

It is an uphill battle for some.

State president of RJD Abdul Bari Siddiqui is giving Shakil Ahmed a tough time in Madhubani and BJP state unit chief Radha Mohan Singh giving Akhilesh Prasad Singh a hard time in East Champaran.

Another key contest is between filmmaker Prakash Jha of the LJP against the Congress’ Sadhu Yadav, Lalu Prasad’s brother-in-law who quit the RJD after being denied the party ticket, from West Champaran.

Of interest too is Sheohar, where the BJP’s Rama Devi, widow of slain criminal-turned-politician Brij Bihari Prasad, takes on the Congress’ Lovely Anand, the wife of jailed Anand Mohan who was convicted and sentenced to life for the murder of former Gopalganj district magistrate G. Krishnaiyah.

The Election Commission has declared as sensitive 19 assembly segments in the 13 Lok Sabha constituencies.

The remaining two rounds of the Bihar polls will be held on April 30 and May 7.

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