The ruling NDA faces an acid test in the remaining phases of elections, including today’s, as all 21 Lok Sabha seats going to polls during these phases are under its control at present. Very obviously, it’s now a challenge for them to retain those seats and prove its political capability even as the Opposition has stitched up a powerful alliance with the support of smaller parties to wrest seats from them.

A total of five seats go to polls in the fifth round of voting to be held tomorrow. They include Madhubani, Saran, Muzaffarpur, Hajipur and Sitamarhi—first three seats represented by the BJP while the last two held by the LJP and the Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP) respectively. Of them, RLSP is not a part of the NDA anymore as it has joined the opposition Grand Alliance.

What has been giving sleepless nights to the NDA is that the contest is straight on all the seats except for Madbuhani where the jumping of Congress leader Shakeel Ahmad into the poll fray as an independent candidate has turned it triangular. As such, this seat has been given to the Vikashseel Insan Party (VIP) floated by a fisherman community leader Mukesh Sahni under the seat sharing arrangement but Ahmad jumped into the contest as a rebel candidate. His move is likely to benefit the BJP which has fielded Ashok Yadav, son of sitting party parliamentarian Hukumdeo Narayan Yadav.

READ | Lok Sabha Elections 2019 Phase 5 Live Updates

In Saran, the main contest is between BJP candidate Rajiv Pratap Rudy and RJD leader Chandrika Rai who is Samadhi of party chief Lalu Prasad currently in jail while in Muzaffarpur, it’s a fight between two extremely backward caste leaders ~Ajay Nishad (BJP) and Rajbhushan Chaudhary (VIP).

Likewise, the contest is straight in Hajipur between Pashupati Kumar Paras, younger brother of LJP president Ram Vilas Paswan, and Shiv Chandra Ram of the RJD. Paswan who had been contesting the seat since 1977 has opted out of the poll contest on health grounds.

In Sitamarhi, the main contest is between BJP-turned-JD-U leader Sunil Kumar Pintu and RJD candidate Arjun Rai. An anxious BJP has now gone on furiously raising the issue of nationalism with eyes on Hindu votes and cause a dent into the Opposition votebank. It’s to be seen how the personal charisma of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar works in the elections. As such, opposition strength has got increased this time after it formed a mega alliance with the support of smaller parties, such as Rashtriya Lok Samata Party (RLSP), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM), Vikashseel Insan Party (VIP) and the Communist Party of IndiaMarxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) having significant support base among various caste groups.

On the other hand, the RJD and the Congress have already been a part of it for long. The RLSP claims to have significant support base among the backward Kushwaha voters whereas the HAM enjoys the support of Dalits castes. Meanwhile, VIP draws its strength from the support of fishermen community while the RJD claims to have its strong support base among Yadavs and Muslims. Although the Congress vote base has dwindled over the years, it still has significant support among the traditional voters.

Mrs Bahubalis of Bihar

Hina Shahab, Kavita Singh and Neelam Singh are charting their way through the very masculine Bihar political-scape of Election 2019 but the big question is did their parties choose them as dummy candidates for their muscle flexing husbands? Shahab, the RJD’s contestant in Siwan, is the wife of four-term (1996 to 2004) MP Shahabuddin, convicted in multiple murder cases and debarred from contesting any election. Her opponent in Siwan, which votes on 12 May, is Kavita Singh, a two-time MLA who is the Janata Dal(United) candidate and the wife of local muscleman Ajay Singh. He has been denied a ticket because of the many criminal cases against him.