The RJD chief's pro-mandal rhetoric and his description of the polls as 'forwards vs backwards' battle has somewhat consolidated his core yadav voters, but close watchers of the poll scene say it has also nudged fence-sitters as well some Nitish's former supporters closer to the BJP-led NDA.

"I have always voted for Nitish Kumar. But Lalu Prasad has not been good for us," said Sukhdev Mahto, a rickshaw-puller who belongs to mahadalit group.

"I will vote for PM Modi sarkar," he added, making his preference clear for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the NDA's face in the poll as the alliance has not declared its chief ministerial candidate.

BJP has used Lalu's caste pitch to amplify its message that a vote for Nitish will bring back 'jungle raj' as it works to corner a majority of votes from communities like extremely backward castes (EBC), who ditched Lalu to support Nitish but voted for the saffron party in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

EBCs constitute anywhere between 30-35 percent of voters and comprise dozens of castes. Seen a floating voting group, they are being wooed vigrously by the two rival alliances in a state where caste is perhaps the single most important factor in electoral politics.

While Nitish hopes they will return to support his bid for a third term as Chief Minister after being swayed by PM Modi's development agenda in 2014, BJP is pulling out all stops to ensure they remain on their side.

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