The battle for Bihar’s Patna Sahib constituency has become a matter of prestige for the Bharatiya Janata Party since its MP Shatrughan Sinha defected to the Congress only a month before the elections.

Patna Sahib and its neighbouring Pataliputra are constituencies that were created in 2008 after the reorganisation of the Patna City constituency. The BJP, with Shatrughan Sinha as its candidate, has won the Patna Sahib seat both times since then.

Sinha and Ravi Shankar Prasad of the Bharatiya Janata Party are the main candidates this time. Prasad is a Union minister and a three-time Rajya Sabha MP. This is his first Lok Sabha election.

The campaign in Patna Sahib stands out for lacking the abuse that characterised many other election battles. Both contestants have claimed to be family friends. “Neither will I make any personal attacks or even name my opponent,” Ravi Shankar Prasad told Deccan Chronicle earlier this month.

Sinha sought votes based on his work in the past 10 years, while Prasad, like most BJP leaders, asked the electorate to vote for Modi and his development project.

In 2014, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance won 31 of 40 seats in Bihar. The BJP won 22 of these. For this election, it has formed an alliance with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party.

The Congress, meanwhile, has tied up with the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Rashtriya Lok Samta Party, Hindustani Awam Morcha Secular and Vikassheel Insaan Party in a grand alliance in Bihar.

Even before Sinha formally quit the party on in April, he had often been critical of the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He even made appearances at public functions organised by Opposition leaders.

On March 23, after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance named Ravi Shankar Prasad the candidate from Patna Sahib, Sinha had said he was “capable of paying back”. Shortly after, he ended his 20-year-long association with the BJP and moved to the Congress.

Key groups

Sinha received more than 50% of the votes in this constituency in previous elections. In 2009, Sinha beat the Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Vijay Kumar by more than 1.5 lakh votes. In 2014, he defeated the Congress’ Kunal Singh by 2.65 lakh votes.

Both Prasad and Sinha belong to the Kayastha community, which had voted for the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, with Sinha’s defection to the Congress, these votes are likely to be split, according to India Today.

Sinha hopes that the Kayasthas along with the votes from Yadavs and Muslims will help him reach the finish line. Prasad, meanwhile, will rely on the Kayastha votes, besides those of traditional BJP voters such as Brahmins and Bhumihars.

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