Patna, Oct 15: Ruling NDA and RJD-LJP combine appear locked in a virtual neck-and-neck fight as the battle lines have been drawn for as many as 787 candidates in the fray in the 48 assembly constituencies in Bihar which will go to the polls in the third phase on October 28.
Desperately trying to make the contest a multi-cornered affair are the Congress contesting from all these seats, besides the BSP and three major left allies-- CPI, CPI-M and CPI-ML (Liberation) in quite a good number of seats.
Prominent among the candidates trying their lucks in the third round of electoral battle in Bihar, include former chief minister Rabri Devi, who is contesting from Raghopur seat in Vaishali district and Sonepur seat in Saran district.
Others include, state JD(U) ministers Brishen Patel (Vaishali), Vyasdeo Prasad (Siwan), former state Health minister Chandramohan Rai (Chanpatia), BJP ministers Renu Devi(Bettiah), Ramchandra Sahni, the party sitting MLAs Nitya Nand Rai (Hajipur) and Janardan Singh Sigriwal (Chapra). sitting MLA Ramakishore Singh (Mahnar).
Ruling JD(U) and BJP are contesting from 24 seats each, while CPI has fielded its candidates in 10, CPI-M in five and CPI-ML (Liberation) in 16 seats.
The third phase of polls will be litmus test for the RJD-LJP combine, especially in Vaishali and Saran area, while the NDA will be seeking to boost its support base in Champarans and also the upper Gangetic belt.
Vaishali area is LJP supremo Ramvilas Paswan's citadel, while Saran is considered to his RJD counterpart Lalu Prasad's fort.
Going by the statistics, the RJD maintained its 11 seats in the Vaishali-Saran areas in both February 2005 and October 2005, but in October 2005, the LJP which suffered a split with its sitting MLAs jumping the fence and joining the NDA, lost four of the six seats it had won in February 2005.
While the JD(U) took its tally to from five in February 2005 to 11 in October 2005, the BJP also increased its seats to seven in October from four in February, 2005. PTI