Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejashwi Yadav, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) chief Jitan Ram Manjhi, Vikasshil Insan Party (VIP) chief Mukesh Sahni, RSLP chief general secretary Satyanand Prasad Dangi and Bihar RJD President Ramchandra Purbey during a press conference (Photo: IANS)
Patna: More than a Narendra Modi or Nitish Kumar factor, Bihar's ruling NDA is heavily banking on the "caste-factor" in the state's five parliamentary constituencies which are slated to go to the polls in the fifth phase of the Lok Sabha elections on May 6.
The stake is high for the NDA to win all the five seats -- Hajipur, Saran, Muzaffarpur, Sitamarhi and Madhubani.
In the 2014 polls, the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) won three of five seats -- Saran, Muzaffarpur and Madhubani. While its allies, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RSLP) won the Hajipur and Sitamarhi seats, respectively.
But the RLSP has now joined hands with the opposition Grand Alliance which is also playing the caste card to consolidate its social support base to regain lost ground.
Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Shakti Yadav said the Grand Alliance was fighting the polls "only to gain and not to lose anything".
The ruling NDA has made every possible move for the right caste equation that will play a dominant role over the issue of development. "No question of taking any risk or chance as the electoral battle is tough. Caste is no doubt a winning factor," a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader admitted.
Last time, the division of votes was sharp in the opposition camp that helped the NDA to win. But in these general elections, caste equations are different as the Grand Alliance has been joined by the RLSP, Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP).
According to polls watchers, if the RJD-led Grand Alliance's traditional social support base of Muslims and Yadavs gain support from the Kushwahas, an agrarian caste, Mallah and Dalits, it would give the NDA a tough time.
Similarly, the JD-U and BJP's support base among the Economically Backward Classes (EBCs), non-Yadav OBCs and Dalits would play an important role. Besides, the saffron party is confident of the overwhelming support of its traditional upper castes.
BJP spokesperson Nikhil Anand said the RLSP and VIP have no capacity to shift votes from the NDA to Grand Alliance. "BJP has been working for all and getting support from all. It will upset the Grand Alliance again."
In the Saran seat, the RJD's Chandrika Rai, also the father-in-law of party supremo Lalu Prasad's elder son Tej Pratap Yadav, is contesting against sitting BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
In Muzaffarpur, the BJP's sitting MP Ajay Nishad is confident of overwhelming support against Rajbhushan Choudhary, fielded by the VIP under the Grand Alliance.
In the Hajipur seat, LJP candidate Pashupati Kumar Paras is being challenged by the RJD's Shiv Chandra Ram. Paras is the younger brother of LJP chief and Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, who decided not to contest this time.
It is first time after more than four decades that Ram Vilas Paswan is not contesting polls from Hajipur.
Instead of a direct contest between the ruling NDA and the opposition Grand Alliance in Madhubani, rebel Congress candidate Shakeel Ahmad has made the battle triangular.
BJP candidate Ashok Yadav, son of party sitting MP Hukum Deo Narayan Yadav is comfortable with the presence of a strong rebel from the Grand Alliance camp, bound to split votes.
Sitamarhi will see a fight between the JDU's Sunil Kumar Pintu and the RJD's Arjun Rai.
More than 87 lakh voters will decide the fate of 82 candidates on May 6.
Tight security arrangements were made and adequate para-military personnel have been deployed.
Surveillance will also be conducted by drones, officials said.0D