Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav will be the Chief Ministerial candidate for the opposition coalition in Bihar to challenge incumbent Nitish Kumar and his party has been allotted 144 seats out of 243 in the upcoming state elections after negotiations in the Grand Alliance.
The Congress will contest in 70 and Left parties 29 while the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha will get seats from the RJD quota, the alliance announced on Saturday. Upset with the division, one of the smaller parties in the coalition, the VIP party, walked out of the grouping saying they had been "cheated".
"This is a fight between the people and the double-engine government," Tejashwi Yadav said. "I am a true Bihari and our DNA is also pure," he added in a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's DNA remark that had riled up his then opponent Nitish Kumar.
The announcement comes a day after filing of nominations for the first phase of voting started on Thursday. The last date for filing nominations is October 8. Seventy-one of the total 243 constituencies will see voting in the first phase on October 28.
Bihar will vote on October 28, November 3 and 7 for a new government and the results will be announced on November 10. The country's biggest election in the coronavirus crisis will be held with many changes, including an extra voting hour and no physical contact during the campaign.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who heads the ruling coalition in the state with the BJP, hopes to win a fourth term with the opposition RJD of jailed former chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and the Congress - his partners in the last election - challenging him.
The opposition, led by Lalu Yadav's son Tejashwi Yadav, plans to target the ruling coalition over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the migrant crisis, besides the floods in the state. The centre's controversial farm bills, passed in parliament despite opposition protests, have also armed Tejashwi Yadav with a campaign pitch to target what he calls an "anti-farmer" government.
Voting will take place from 7 AM to 6 PM instead of 5 AM this time. Covid patients, suspects and those in quarantine will vote separately and there will be no physical contact during meetings and rallies, Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora said. Voters have to use masks and gloves. The number of phases have also been reduced from five to minimise infection. "COVID-19 patients can vote in the last hour of the day," he added.