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Bihar: Five Lok Sabha seats to go to polls in fourth phase, two Union ministers in fray

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Patna, May 12 (PTI) Five Lok Sabha seats in Bihar will go to polls on Monday, when 95 lakh voters will decide the electoral fate of 55 candidates, including two Union ministers.

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The seats going to polls are Begusarai, Ujiyarpur, Samastipur, Munger and Darbhanga.

In Begusarai Lok Sabha seat, which has the largest electorate of 22 lakh among the five constituencies, Union minister Giriraj Singh's bid for a second consecutive term has been challenged by CPI's Awadhesh Rai.

In 2019, Singh had defeated former JNU students' union president Kanhaiya Kumar, who was a CPI candidate, by a margin of over 4 lakh votes in the constituency.

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However, unlike last time, when it ploughed a lonely furrow, the CPI now has a truck with Congress and the mighty RJD, a combination that had paid rich dividends in assembly polls less than three years ago.

In Ujiyarpur, which has the lowest number of voters at 17.48 lakh but the maximum number of 13 candidates, Union Minister of State for Home, Nityanand Rai, is aiming at a hat-trick.

His main challenger is Alok Mehta, a senior RJD leader and former state minister who is the MLA from the eponymous assembly seat. Mehta has also been a former MP from Samastipur, the name by which the Lok Sabha seat was known before the 2019 delimitation.

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Samastipur is now the name of a reserved seat, previously known as Rosera, where the battle is primarily between two debutants, both children of senior JD (U) leaders and ministers in the Nitish Kumar cabinet.

Congress candidate Sunny Hazari has the benefit of his party representing a broader alliance, besides the fact that his father Maheshwar Hazari had won the seat for JD (U) in 2009.

The Hazaris had reportedly earlier approached Chirag Paswan, a close relative, for a ticket of his Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas). However, Paswan fielded Shambhavi Choudhary, daughter of Ashok Choudhary, another minister known to be very close to the Bihar chief minister.

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At a recent rally in Bihar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged voters to support the LJP (R) candidate, whom he described as the "youngest" of all fielded by the BJP-led NDA.

Another seat with an intense contest is Munger, which former JD (U) president Rajiv Ranjan Singh 'Lalan' hopes to retain. His main challenger is RJD candidate Kumari Anita, who is seen as a proxy to her husband Ashok Mahto.

Mahto, a dreaded gangster, is known for political ambitions and a strident anti-upper caste stance. However, conviction in a criminal case has disqualified him from contesting polls.

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A widower in his 60s, Mahto tied the knot with Anita two months ago, reportedly upon advice from RJD president Lalu Prasad. The muscle power that Mahto brings to the table seems to have caused some consternation in the NDA camp, though the PM had held a rally in the constituency.

A controversy was stoked with the release, on parole, of Anant Singh, a UAPA convict, whose wife Neelam Devi is the MLA from Mokama, falling under Munger Lok Sabha seat, and had crossed over from RJD to JD (U) when the NDA government in Bihar won a trust vote in February.

Since walking out of jail, Anant Singh has been holding court at his residence, predicting before supporters and media a massive win for Lalan, whom his wife had challenged in 2019 as the Congress candidate.

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In Darbhanga, Gopal Jee Thakur feels confident of retaining the seat for BJP, his prospects having received a boost with a rally of the PM only last week. His main rival Lalit Kumar Yadav is the sitting RJD MLA from Darbhanga Rural and, hence, no pushover.

Besides, the RJD has received a shot in the arm with the return of former Union minister Ali Ashraf Fatmi, who had won the Darbhanga seat four times and is now trying his luck from the adjoining Madhubani, which goes to polls in the fifth phase.

Of the 95.85 lakh people who are eligible to exercise their franchise in the five seats, more than a third are young voters. While 15.14 lakh electors are aged 18-19 years, the number of those in the age group of 20 to 29 years is 21.42 lakh.

Gender ratio for the fourth phase is relatively low (898) with only 45.34 lakh female voters across all the five constituencies. PTI NAC ACD

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