Voting for the bye-election to the Dantewada Assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh began on Monday morning amid tight security. The Bharatiya Janata Party has fielded the wife of the MLA whose death necessitated the bye-poll.

Polling began at 7 am, and will go on till 3 pm. Nine candidates are in the fray, and a total of 1,88,263 voters are eligible to exercise their franchise. Counting of votes will take place on September 27.

The turnout by 9 am was 12.7%, The Indian Express reported.

The bye-poll was necessitated by the death of BJP MLA Bheema Mandavi in a Maoist attack in April. Mandavi and four policemen were killed on April 9 when Maoists blew up their vehicle near Shyamgiri village of Dantewada district. In the 2018 Assembly elections, Mandavi had defeated Congress candidate Devti Karma by a narrow margin of around 2,000 votes to become the only BJP MLA from the 12 Assembly segments of Bastar region.

Karma is once again in the fray from the Congress, while the BJP has fielded Bheema Mandavi’s wife Ojaswi Mandavi. Karma herself is the wife of former Congress leader Mahendra Karma, who was killed in another Maoist attack on several state party leaders in 2013.

Around 18,000 security personnel have been deployed to ensure no untoward incident takes place. Drones will also survey the Assembly segment, which is part of the insurgency-hit Bastar region. “All necessary measures had been taken to thwart attempts by Maoists to disrupt the poll process,” Deputy Inspector General (anti-naxal operations) Sundarraj P had told PTI.

In 2018, the Congress had won 68 seats, while the BJP bagged 15 in the 90-member House.

Three more bye-elections underway

Voting for bye-elections to Pala in Kerala, Badharghat in Tripura and Hamirpur in Uttar Pradesh are also underway. Voting in all these three constituencies started at 7 am, and will conclude at 6 pm. The votes will be counted on September 27.

In Pala, 13 candidates are in the fray. However, the main contest is among candidates of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front, the Congress-led United Democratic Front and the National Democratic Alliance. The bye-election was necessitated by the death of former state Finance Minister and Kerala Congress (M) leader KM Mani, who held the constituency for more than five decades.

For the Badharghat Assembly seat in Tripura, the contest is among Congress’ Ratan Das, BJP candidate Mimi Majumder Das and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Bulti Biswas. The bye-poll was necessitated after sitting BJP MLA Dilip Sarkar died in April.

In Uttar Pradesh, Hamirpur, it is a four-cornered contest among the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and Congress candidates. The bye-election has been necessitated due to the disqualification of BJP MLA Ashok Kumar Singh Chandel after he was convicted in a murder case.

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