Kanhaiya Kumar, one of the most watched candidates in the national election, faces his test today in Bihar's Begusarai, where he is debuting as a CPI contestant against the BJP's Giriraj Singh, a Union Minister known for his controversial pronouncements. The RJD has fielded Tanveer Hassan.
For years known as the "Leningrad of Bihar", Begusarai is now a BJP stronghold.
The 32-year-old former student leader from the Jawaharlal Nehru University exuded confidence as voting took place in the fourth round of the staggered election. "Begusarai will win. People will reject a party that has only tried to distract voters from issues that matter," he said.
The odds are against him; Kanhaiya Kumar is one of the two opposition candidates in the seat, which means the anti-BJP votes are likely to be divided. He dismissed the idea. "There is no divide in Begusarai. It is united. The voters will defeat a party that believes in divert and rule, just like they threw out the British divide-and-rule policy," he told NDTV.
Kanhaiya Kumar's campaign drew much attention, not just for his oratorical skills but because of high-profile supporters like Swara Bhaskar, Shabana Azmi and Javed Akhtar endorsing him in rallies.
The ruling BJP's candidate Giriraj Singh, notorious for asking critics of the government to "go to Pakistan", pitched the Begusarai vote as a "nationalist versus traitor" battle - a reference to allegations that Kanhaiya Kumar was among the organisers of an event in JNU in 2016 in the memory of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, where anti-India slogans were raised.
"What has this government done in five years? A government that has done nothing for the country is asking for votes in the name of the country," Kanhaiya Kumar said.
"My fight is against liars, those who have looted the country and those who have allowed looters to leave the country. They are so worried that they tried to disrupt my campaign."
In the previous election in 2014, the CPI placed third in Begusarai, after the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and Lalu Yadav's RJD.