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Last-gasp scurry to defend & challenge

Patna, April 28: Nitish Kumar returned to Patna today after an intensive phase of campaigning to defend five seats in the core of Mithilanchal, including the prestige constituency of Madhepura from where JD(U) president Sharad Yadav is contesting.

The chief minister had headquartered himself in Madhepura for the past 10 days — he even discharged official responsibilities from his makeshift camp there.

Nitish held a final round of public meetings at Madhepura, Begusarai and Khagaria today as the curtains came down on campaigning for the fourth phase of elections in Bihar. Of the seven seats that vote on Wednesday, five — Jhanjharpur, Madhepura, Samastipur, Khagaria and Begusarai — are held by the JD(U). Darbhanga and Madhubani are with the BJP.

For Nitish, defending Madhepura is a matter of prestige as it is held by Sharad, who is locked in a triangular fight with Pappu Yadav of the RJD and Vijay Kushwaha of the BJP. “It would be a major embarrassment for the party if Sharad Yadav loses,” conceded a senior JD(U) leader.

For the BJP it is a challenge to not only retain its two seats, Madhubani and Darbhanga, but also gain in an area where its organisation isn’t as strong. And RJD boss Lalu Prasad will desperately want to regain the area once considered his fiefdom and where he has been losing since 2005.

Small wonder then that Nitish went into aggression mode in Madhepura on Monday, asking people if they want the state to go back to the “lantern age” (alluding to the symbol of Lalu’s party, which is blamed by Nitish for taking the state to its nadir). He asked people to vote for the JD(U) if they want development to continue.

LJP president Ram Vilas Paswan and BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi also addressed a meeting in Madhepura where they targeted both Lalu and Nitish. “Previously Nitish used to say the Narendra Modi wave was created by a blower. But now he is obsessed with NaMo,” said Sushil Modi. He also alleged that Nitish was taking credit for good work done by BJP ministers.

Also on Monday, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj addressed her first election meeting in Bihar at Benipatti in Madhubani district. She said the BJP alone could take the country out of the mess it was in. “We are proud that Narendra Modi is our leader,” she said.

Lalu rounded off the campaign with a public meeting in Samastipur, seeking votes for Congress candidate Ashok Kumar. He declared there was no Modi wave in Bihar and that he would sweep the polls, winning all 40 seats. He also dubbed Nitish a friend of Modi.

Appealing to the electorate to cast their votes without fear, Bihar chief secretary Ashok Kumar Sinha told reporters: “The government has made adequate security arrangements to ensure peaceful polling in the fourth phase. We appeal to the people to go to the polling stations and exercise their franchise without fear.”

Sinha was accompanied by principal secretary, home, Amir Subhani and additional director-general of police (headquarters) Ravindra Kumar. Some 219 companies of security forces would be deployed in seven parliamentary constituencies in the fourth phase of polling, Sinha said.

The chief secretary also said the administration had taken preventive steps under sections 107 and 110 against 3.44 lakh people of the state having criminal antecedents. That includes 1.05 lakh troublemakers who could create problems or intimidate voters. Also, of 50,337 people who were arrested, 7,870 come from the seven seats going to the polls in the fourth phase.


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