Sixth phase: 14 mn voters to seal fate of 127 candidates in 8 Bihar seats

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Four sitting MPs, including a member of the Narendra Modi cabinet, are among the 127 candidates whose electoral fortunes will be decided by 13.8 million voters in the sixth and penultimate phase of Lok Sabha elections in Bihar on Sunday.

Amid tight security, polling will be held in eight Lok Sabha seats -- Sheohar, Valmiki Nagar, Pashchimi Champaran, Purvi Champaran, Siwan, Gopalganj, Maharajganj and Vaishali.

Among the 127 candidates, 16 are women - eight in Vaishali, four in Siwan and one each in Sheohar, Maharajganj, Purvi Champaran and Valmiki Nagar.

While Purvi Champaran and Vaishali have the highest number of candidates - 22 each -Pashchimi Champaran has nine contestants in the fray, the least among the eight seats.

Of the 13.8 million voters, 6.49 million are women and 476 belong to the third gender.

The poll phase holds significance for the NDA, which had won all eight seats in 2014 -- seven bagged by the BJP, while one, Vaishali, was grabbed by Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP.

The BJP has given up three of its sitting seats -- Valmiki Nagar, Siwan and Gopalganj -- in favour of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's JD(U), which returned to the NDA fold in 2017.

Among the key candidates is Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, who seeks to retain Purvi Champaran, a seat he has represented five times. The 69-year-old BJP veteran is locked in a virtually straight contest with RLSP's greenhorn Akash Singh, who is than half his age.

The RLSP candidate is the son of Congress leader Akhilesh Prasad Singh, who had won the seat on an RJD ticket in 2014, beating a BJP candidate.

The nomination of the young debutant had sparked off a controversy as a number of disgruntled RLSP leaders accused its founding president Upendra Kushwaha of having "sold" the seat to Akhilesh Prasad Singh.

Radha Mohan Singh, on his part, is banking on the goodwill he has earned during his political career.

He struck an emotional note by declaring that this would be his last election.

In Vaishali, five-time MP and RJD candidate Raghuvansh Prasad Singh is in the fray to wrest the seat back from the LJP, which has replaced sitting MP Rama Singh - a mafia don- turned-politician - with Veena Devi, a former MLA previously associated with the BJP.

Sitting BJP MP Rama Devi is fighting to retain Sheohar, where her principal challenger is RJD's Syed Faisal Ali, a resident of Gaya district based in Delhi and a journalist by profession.

Tej Pratap Yadav, the elder son of the jailed RJD supremo, had revolted against the party's decision and fielded his confidant Angesh Kumar Singh who, however, is not in the fray as his nomination papers got rejected.

Siwan is witnessing a contest between two women married to local musclemen. Sitting BJP MP Om Prakash Yadav stands deprived of a chance to seek re-election as the seat has this time gone to the JD(U), which has fielded local MLA Kavita Singh, who is married to Ajay Singh.

Ajay Singh was denied a ticket by the JD(U) because of his involvement in criminal cases.

The RJD has once again placed its bets on Heena Shahab, who has lost as party candidate from the seat in the last two elections. She is married to the dreaded Mohd Shahabuddin, a four-time MP currently serving sentence in a double-murder case and whose name has surfaced in several high-profile cases, including murders of former JNU student leader Chandrashekhar and journalist Rajdeo Ranjan.

In Valmiki Nagar, sitting BJP MP Satish Chandra Dubey has been replaced by the NDA with JD(U)'s Baidyanath Mahto, who had won the seat in 2009.

Dubey had initially expressed resentment over the decision and threatened to contest as an Independent. He, however, relented following a meeting with BJP chief Amit Shah in New Delhi, which was organized by the party's national general secretary in-charge for the state Bhupendra Yadav.

The Mahagathbandhan is represented by the Congress, which has fielded Shashwat Kedar, a debutant whose grandfather Kedar Pandey had served as the chief minister of Bihar and the railway minister under Indira Gandhi.

His father Manoj Pandey had also served as an MP from the now-abolished Lok Sabha seat of Bettiah in the 1980s.

In Gopalganj, a reserved seat, sitting BJP MP Janak Ram has been made to stand down in favor of JD(U)'s Alok Kumar Suman. The principal challenger here is Surendra Ram, a party-hopper who is contesting the election on an RJD ticket. He has previously fought assembly polls on tickets of the RJD and the LJP as well as an Independent.

Initially, there were speculations that Tejashwi Yadav, Lalu Prasad's younger son who has emerged as the RJD's de facto leader in the father's absence, was willing to give up Gopalganj in favour of the BSP, with which he was hopeful of an electoral understanding. However, that did not materialise as the Mayawati-led party decided to field its candidates in all 40 seats in Bihar.

Sitting BJP MPs Sanjay Jaiswal and Janardan Singh Sigriwal are defending their seats - Pashchim Champaran and Maharajganj respectively.

In Maharajganj, Sigriwal is up against RJD candidate Randhir Kumar Singh, whose father Prabhunath Singh had represented the seat a number of times and is currently lodged in jail serving sentence in a murder case.

In Pashchim Champaran, the RLSP has fielded Brijesh Kushwaha, who was not known to most within the party until his candidature was announced.



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