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Lalu or Nitish: Who will Bihar choose?

Last updated on: November 24, 2010 00:32 IST

Lalu or Nitish: Who will Bihar choose?

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M I Khan

Patna wears an air of suppressed excitement. Hotels are full (mainly occupied by media representatives and political leaders); police and paramilitary forces are doing their rounds, silently watchful; and the marigold garland market is doing brisk business.

Counting for the assembly elections starts at 8 am on Wednesday for the most eagerly-awaited result in the recent history of the state.

Contenders are already petitioning their favoured deities. Truckfulls of havan samagri (stuff required to carry out ceremonies) began trundling into the driveway at Health Engineering minister Ashwani Choubey's residence.

Transport Minister RN Singh has locked himself up in his puja room reciting scriptures -- he is expected to stop only after the results have been declared.

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With inputs from Satyavrat Mishra & Aditi Phadnis/Business Standard


Image: Bihar's Chief Minister Nitish Kumar
Photographs: Reuters
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At former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad's Aney Marg home, there is little hubbub, and the Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo is systematically working the phones, getting the latest reports from his partymen across the state.

For each of the 243 constituencies, there will be 14 tables each manned by two counting staff and a special counting micro observer, he said.

The EVMs brought from strong rooms will be opened under the supervision of senior officials, observers and Election Commission authorities from 8 am.

The results of the Bihar polls to be announced soon and the aam aadmi is clearly in favour of Nitish Kumar. People are confident that the Bihar chief minister will return to power and unlike the last assembly polls they do not want a change in leadership.

"We are praying for the return of Nitish Kumar so that he can be in power another five years in Bihar," Mahesh Mahto, who runs a small shop in the heart of Patna, told rediff.com on Tuesday evening.

And even the youth is rooting for the CM. "I am hopeful that Nitish Kumar will return to power. It is good for Bihar and its development," Nazia Tabassum, a college student.


Image: Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad
Photographs: Ajay Verma/Reuters
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The EC's official website will update the trends and results. Among prominent contestants are former chief minister Rabri Devi, who contested from Raghopur and Sonepur.

Sitting ministers are praying harder than others because some of them are nervous: Bijender Yadav (Irrigation), Renu Devi (Culture and Youth Affairs), Brishen Patel (Rural Works Department) and Anil Kumar (Information Technology) are all sitting ministers and are all tense.

The spotlight is also on those who have been powerful and are now threatened with the prospect of being unseated: for instance, mafia don Pappu Yadav's wife Ranjeeta Ranjan who is contesting on a Congress I nomination from Saharsa.

Regionally, the rule of thumb appears to be: regions where the Janata Dal United-Bharatiya Janata Party government has worked, the lliance will be rewarded. Where there is no development, it would lose.

In the Kosi area, which contributes 50 to 60 seats to the 243-member assembly, the government is likely to face a litmus test. The region was flooded in 2008 and the government's rehabilitation plans have left people dissatisfied.


Image: Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan
Photographs: Sondeep Shankar/Saab Pictures
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Nor are conditions conducive in North Bihar for the ruling alliance -- there was caste consolidation in 2005 against the Yadav-predominant RJD of Lalu Prasad. This time, there is some disenchantment with the Nitish Kumar government on issues of land redistribution.

A Rajput leader from this region, Raghuvansh Prasad Singh of Vaishali, is leading the anti-Nitish Kumar sentiment.

But in Darbhanga, Samastipur, Madhubani and Gaya where roads have been four-laned on a large scale, conditions are better for the ruling combine. In Bhojpur, Rohtas, Aurangabad and Kaimoor the Congress could make inroads.

Nitish Kumar has already spelt out his agenda if he was to return to power: coal linkage; power supply, revival of sugar mills and more roads. Also on the anvil is a law to amend the anti corruption law -- the properties of those convicted under this law will be confiscated and the state will start schools on it.

Massive overhaul of the Public Distribution System -- which is currently in the hands of the upper castes -- is also on the cards. Kumar has said despite the changes in the education administration, 7.5 lakh children are still outside the school systems and some way has to be found to reintegrate them.

As Bihar holds its breath, there are many who will heave a sigh of relief when the results are made public after a six-phase poll: including an MLA who has vowed to keep standing on one leg till he is declared victorious. And if he loses? Well, no one knows what he would do.

Of the 3,523 contestants, 308 are women. While 1,324 contested as Independents, 956 were fielded by unrecognised political parties. National and regional parties fielded 1,225 candidates.

The Congress was the only party which fielded its candidates in all 243 constituencies followed by the Bahujan Samaj Party which contested 239 seats. The JD-U contested 141 seats and its ally BJP contested 102 seats. The RJD contested on 168 seats and ally LJP in 75.


Image: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters
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