What may upset the RJD and Congress calculations, however, is how the 30% Pachpanias (a group of extremely backward and scheduled castes) vote. With his Mahadalit schemes, chief minister Nitish Kumar has made them his new constituency, and it is their vote that tilted the balance heavily in favour of the NDA in the last Lok Sabha polls. The Congresss Ranjeet Ranjan, as a result, had managed only the second spot at Supaul despite her popularity and the Rahul factor.
Several heavyweights from the JD(U) are in the fray from here, including ministers Bijendra Yadav (Supaul), Narendra Narayan Yadav (Alamnagar) and Renu Kushwaha (Bihariganj). In fact, the most-watched battles in this phase will take place in Alamnagar and Bihariganj, where the sitting ministers take on Congresss women biggies Lovely Anand (wife of convicted former MP Anand Mohan) and Ranjeet Ranjan (wife of convicted former MP Pappu Yadav) respectively.
Another contest the Congress is keenly watching is at the Simri Bakhtiyarpur seat, where its state president Choudhary Mehboob Ali Qaiser is aiming at a fourth victory. He faces two Yadavs from rival parties JD(U) and RJD.
The Pachpania vote may prove crucial for Ranjans win. Getting only Gopes (Yadavs) and a sizeable Muslim chunk might not be good enough as the RJD eyes the same vote bank, points out Pankaj Kumar, a Madhepura resident.
Lovely Anand, on the contrary, is purely banking on the Rajputs rallying behind hera hope many see as wishful. Despite Alamnagar being a Rajput-dominated seat, with minimal Yadav presence, veteran JD(U) leader Narendra Narayan Yadav has won past four elections from here.
Says Ravi Prakash Singh, an Alamnagar voter: Why vote for Lovely Anand Mohan had ceased to be our leader the day he had joined hands with Lalu. We should live in the present.
Narendra Narain claims he is confident of winning as he banks on support across caste and community lines. Let my opponents work on caste.
A safe bet for the Congress is the Nirmali seat in Supaul, where its nominee Vijay Gupta seems ahead of the JD(U)s Aruna Mehta and RJDs A P Yadav.
The RJDs hopes rest on Madhepura and Singheshwar (SC) seats. Madhepura RJD candidate Chandrashekhar (Yadav) is banking on his image of a committed RJD worker against Sharad Yadavs nominee R R Yadav Ravi. But the Madhepura battle is basically a contest for Yadav votes between Lalu and Sharadas they say here, Rome Pope ka, Madhepura Gope ka. And while nobody is willing to talk about it, Sharad may hold the upper hand this time, courtesy the Pachpanias.
In Saharsa, the story is entirely different, with Independents and a BJP rebel Independent making it tough for the NDA. The result is a slight edge for the RJDs Arun Yadav.
The month-long election to the Bihar Assembly kicks off on Thursday with the first of the states 243 constituencies going to the polls to decide if chief minister Nitish Kumar will succeed in bringing the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) back to power.
Around 1.07 crore voters are eligible to decide the fate of 635 candidates in the fray for the 47 constituencies in the first lot.
Elaborate security arrangements have been made to ensure peaceful polling as the stage gets set in the 10,454 polling booths, mostly in rural areas..
Chief electoral officer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh has said observers and micro observers have been appointed to ensure free and fair elections.
Meanwhile, state director general of police Neelmani said jawans of central para-military forces were being deployed on all booths for peaceful poll. He said, states border with Nepal had been sealed to prevent any infiltration of anti social elements.