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New Delhi: Counting for high stake Bihar assembly elections, first state polls since the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic in the country, began on Tuesday morning. The outcome of the election, where 243 constituencies went to polls across three phases, will decide the fate of several political stakeholders.

The run up to the elections has seen a keen contest National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which includes Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on one side and the challenger Mahagathbandhan which mainly includes Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress under the leadership of former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav.

Mint takes a look at what is at stake for the key political parties in fray.

JDU - The election will decide the fate of JDU under Kumar who has served at the top post for nearly 15 years now. The JDU is facing anti-incumbency and the outcome of the election could decide it's political future in a state where it has been a dominant political force since it's formation in 2003. Kumar is trying to retain power for the fourth consecutive time.

RJD - This is the first assembly election that the RJD is contesting in the absence of its top leader Lalu Prasad Yadav. The election will test the political might of Tejashwi Yadav and if the exit polls predictions of Mahagathbandhan crossing halfway mark hold true, he could make history by becoming the youngest chief minister of the state.

BJP - After a historic return to power in Lok Sabha elections last year, outcome of incumbent state polls since have not been in BJP's favour. It could not form government in Maharashtra after Shiv Sena switched sides, had to join hands with Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) in Haryana to continue being in power and lost in Jharakhand. The Bihar verdict will hence be crucial for BJP also because the state along with Uttar Pradesh is significant for its electoral calculation. Bihar and UP together account for 120 Lok Sabha members.

Congress - For Congress, the outcome of Bihar elections could be a key decider of party's revival in the Hindi speaking belt. A good performance could come as a shot in the arm for the party that continues to face internal leadership crisis. The outcome of the results will also test it's ability to bring together opposition parties on a common platform.

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