Dates set for Bihar poll battle

Bihar, where stakes are high for BJP and regional parties, is going to polls in five phases between October 12 and November 5, the much-awaited announcement from the Election Commission of India said on Wednesday. Polling will be held on October 12, 16 and 28 and on November 1 and 5. Results will be out on November 8.

A unique feature of the election is the electronic voting machines will display the photographs of candidates contesting the poll to avoid confusion among voters as many contestants may have similar names. The Bihar Assembly has 243 seats and its term will end on November 29.

Bihar has turned out to be a personal and political battle ground between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, thanks to their ego clashes. Once good friends, they tuned bitter foes when Nitish started challenging Modi over his premiership claim and anointment as PM before the parliamentary elections. Nitish Kumar’s open confrontation with Modi came to a head when he severed his Janata Dal (United)’s 17-year-old relationship with BJP in June 2013. But he bit the dust in last year’s general election when the saffron party routed JD (U).

Buoyed up by the unexpected windfall – BJP got 22 seats while the JD (U) 2 – Modi wants to repeat the feat in the Assembly polls whereas Nitish Kumar, seeking a third term, is fighting his beta noire with his back to the wall. His much talked about alliance with former chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD (Rashtriya Janata Dal) and some other fringe parties may not help him to pull the rabbit out of the hat. To add to Nitish’s woes, Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and National Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar have broken away from anti-NDA alliance. Leftists, though not a force to reckon with, too are going separate ways. Thus a split vote and opposition to Lalu-Nitish combine is expected to give BJP the poll victory on a platter.

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