Patna, Nov 3: Curtains came down this evening on campaigning for 57 seats going to poll in the fifth and last phase of bitterly-fought Bihar assembly elections on November five, with acrimonious exchanges provoking showcause notices from the Election Commission to top leaders of rival alliances.
The 57 seats, including 24 in the Seemanchal region bordering West Bengal, are spread over nine districts of Madhubani, Darbhanga, Supual, Madhepura, Saharsa, Araria, Kisanganj, Purnea and Katihar.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the charge on behalf of the NDA, which has not declared a chief ministerial candidate, and launched a blistering attack on the JD(U)-RJD-Congress grand alliance.
Wrapping up his campaign blitzkrieg a day before electioneering ended, Modi raked up the issue of 1984 anti-sikh riots to mount a counteroffensive on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, saying she has no moral right to lecture NDA on tolerance and the party should "hang its head in shame" over the carnage.
Modi, who addressed around 30 election rallies, unusual for a Prime Minister in a state poll, repeatedly referred to alleged attempts being made by the grand alliance to "snatch away" a part of the quotas meant for dalits, tribals and backward classes and give it to a "particular community on the basis of religion".
He also accused the grand alliance leaders of playing with nation's security by "sheltering" those promoting terror and asked if such people should be allowed to form government in the state.
Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and RJD boss led the counter attack against Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, who said in a controversial statement that celebratory firecrackers will be burst in Pakistan if BJP lost Bihar.
Hitting back, Kumar said Mumbai and Amritsar will witness "maximum fireworks" if BJP lost, apparently referring to strained relations of the party with its allies in Maharashtra and Punjab.
Kumar also sought to turn tables on Modi, who scoffed at his meeting with an occultist, as he targeted the Prime Minister, rally after election rally, for allegedly consulting astrologer Bejan Daruwala.
Days ahead of the last phase of poll, the Election panel issued show cause notice to BJP chief Shah for his firecrackers remark, contending it had the potential to "disturb harmony".
The Commission also issued similar notices to Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for his comment that "BJP makes Hindus and Muslims fight each other" and to Lalu for calling Shah a "cannibal".
Nitish Kumar held six rallies in Darbhanga and Kosi regions on the last day of electioneering, while Lalu addressed seven.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and his ministerial colleagues LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan, Smriti Irani, Radha Mohan Singh, Ravi Shankar Prasad, besides a front runner for chief ministership if NDA is voted to power Sushil Kumar Modi addressed several election meetings through the day.
The last phase of poll will also test the popularity of AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi in the Seemanchal region, which has significant presence of Muslims.
Owaisi has fielded candidates in six seats on his first outing in the state polls. Among the NDA partners, BJP has fielded a maximum of 38 candidates, while LJP nominees are contesting 11.
Rashtriya Lok Samata Party of Union Minister Upendra Kushwaha has put up candidates in five constituencies and Hindustani Awam Morcha of former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi in three.
JD(U) candidates are trying their luck in 25 seats, RJD in 20 and Congress 12.
Prominent among those whose fate will be decided in the last phase include senior minister Bijendra Prasad Yadav of JD(U) (Supual), RJD Legislature party leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui (Alinagar), Minister Narendra Narayan Yadav (Alamnagar) and Lalu Prasad's 'Man Friday" Bhola Yadav (Bahadurpur).
A total of 1,55,43,594 electors are eligible to vote on November 5 to decide the fate of 827 candidates, including 58 women.