Amid threat of Maoist violence and contradictory claims of victory by the rival alliances, about 55 per cent per cent polling was recorded for the second phase of the Bihar Assembly elections on Friday.

Women outnumbered men by over five per cent, polling 57.5 per cent while men polled 52.5 per cent votes.

The might of the BJP’s allies – Jitan Ram Manjhi of the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Upendra Kushwaha of the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party – will be tested in the 32 constituencies spread across Naxal-affected districts of Kaimur, which recorded 57.86 per cent polling, Rohtas (54.66 per cent), Arwal (53.21 per cent), Jehanabad (56.49 per cent), Aurangabad (52.50 per cent) and Gaya (55.54 per cent).

Polling time had been curtailed by one to two hours in 23 constituencies that were heavily patrolled by the Central paramilitary forces as well as the State police.

Grand Alliance gaining

The ruling Grand Alliance, comprising the Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress, were buoyed by the first phase of polling on October 12, during which voting for 49 constituencies took place. They would be looking to maintain, if not expand, its performance in the 2010 polls. The two main constituents – JD(U) and RJD – had won 21 seats of the 32 in the second phase in the 2010 polls.

But the Grand Alliance has lost two of its backward and Mahadalit faces in Kushwaha and Manjhi, who have formed their own parties and joined the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) since then. The 32 seats in second phase are thus also being seen as an acid test for Manjhi and Kushwaha, and what they will be able to bring to the NDA’s plate.

NDA’s weak partners

However, in Jehanabad and Gaya, the stronghold of former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, it was seen that he was not being able to attract votes other than from his own Musahar caste, even from among the Mahadalit voters. Be it the chamars, the doms or the dhobis or the Kushwahas, who are expected to be gravitating towards the NDA, the bigger pull this time was the Grand Alliance and Nitish Kumar. Manjhi seemed weak even in his home turf in Makhdumpur. Imamganj, the second constituency that Manjhi is contesting from, is witnessing a seemingly insurmountable challenge from the Speaker of the Bihar Assembly Uday Narayan Choudhary. Another stalwart from the region is the BJP’s Prem Kumar from Gaya Town who has suddenly emerged as a surprise contender for the Chief Ministerial post.

BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain had announced Prem Kumar’s name as a possible CM candidate towards the end of campaigning for the second phase, a move that was seen as the BJP’s attempt to consolidate among the Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs), a segment that is seen as Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s stronghold but had had shifted to a large extent in NDA’s favour during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

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