The fate of eight ministers of the Nitish Kumar cabinet will be decided on Wednesday when 71 out of the 243 seats in the Bihar assembly vote in the first of the three-phase elections.
Four ministers each are from the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which form the major coalition partners of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) this time.
Former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, who severed ties with the JD-U and formed his party the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) in May 2015, and Mukesh Sahani’s Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), floated in November 2018, make the other constituents of the NDA this time. The HAM was also part of the NDA during the last assembly elections in 2015, whereas the JD-U had teamed up with Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress as part of the Grand Alliance in Bihar.
The late Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) as well as Upendra Prasad Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), which were constituents of the NDA in 2015, are out of it this time.
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Among the BJP leaders in fray Wednesday are agriculture minister Dr Prem Kumar from Gaya assembly constituency, labour resources minister Vijay Kumar Sinha from Jehanabad, SC & ST welfare minister Brij Kishor Bind from Chainpur assembly seat in Kaimur district and revenue minister Ram Narayan Mandal from Banka.
The JD-U leaders include education minister Krishna Nandan Verma from Jehanabad, transport minister Santosh Kumar Nirala from Rajpur in Buxar district, rural works department minister Shailesh Kumar from Jamalpur in Munger district and science and technology minister Jai Kumar Singh from Dinara assembly seat in Rohtas district.
Among the main challengers, in Gaya, BJP’s agriculture minister Prem Kumar is pitted against Akhauri Onkarnath of the Congress. Labour resources minister Vijay Kumar Sinha will cross swords with Amrish Kumar of Congress at Lakhisarai. The main contest at Chainpur (Kaimur) is between SC & ST welfare minister Brij Kishor Bind and Prakash Kumar Singh of Congress. Revenue minister Ram Narayan faces a challenge from Javed Iqbal Ansari of RJD at Banka.
It is a triangular contest for the Jehanabad seat among JD-U education minister Krishnandan Verma, Suday Yadav of the RJD and Indu Kashyap of the LJP. For the Dinara seat, science and technology minister Jai Kumar Singh will square up against Vijay Mandal of the RJD as well as BJP rebels. Transport minister Santosh Kumar Nirala will face off against Vishwanath Ram of the Congress for the Rajpur seat (Buxar). Rural works minister Shailesh Kumar will take on Ajay Kumar Singh of Congress at Jamalpur.
The second and third phases of polls are on November 3 and November 7. Results will be declared on November 10. The term of the Bihar assembly expires on November 29.