Voting for bye-elections in 54 Assembly constituencies across 10 states was held on Tuesday. It was held to elect legislators for 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh, eight in Gujarat, seven in Uttar Pradesh, two each in Odisha, Nagaland, Karnataka and Jharkhand; and one seat each in Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Haryana. Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged citizens of all states to cast their ballot in large numbers and “strengthen the festival of democracy”.
A voter turnout of 66.09% was recorded in Madhya Pradesh till 5 pm, according to the Election Commission of India. Chattisgarh clocked a turnout of 71.99%, while in Gujarat the figure was 55.84%. Jharkhand registered a voter percentage of 62.46%, Karnataka of 51.30% and Odisha 68.08%.
In Nagaland, 83.69% turnout was recorded till 5 pm. Uttar Pradesh and Telangana registered a voter turnout of 51.21% and 81.44%, respectively. Meanwhile, Haryana recorded 61.57% turnout.
Voting was held from 7 am to 6 pm, except in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Nagaland. The number of people allowed in a polling booth has been curtailed because of the coronavirus pandemic and the restrictions imposed to contain it. The counting of votes will take place on November 10.
In Madhya Pradesh, the political ambitions of four senior leaders – Kamal Nath of the Congress, and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and Narendra Singh Tomar of the Bharatiya Janata Party – are at stake.
The bye-elections were necessitated after the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in the state fell in March, when 22 of its MLAs walked away with Scindia, resigning their Assembly seats and joining the BJP. Later, three more Congress MLAs followed Scindia’s lead and joined the saffron party. Besides, three seats were already lying vacant owing to the death of sitting MLAs.
A total of 355 candidates, including 12 ministers, are in the fray for bye-polls to 28 seats in the state. The BJP currently has 107 MLAs, while the Congress has 87 legislators in the House. The BJP needs to win at least nine of these seats to cross the halfway mark in the Assembly. The Congress, on the other hand, needs to win all 28 seats if it wants to return to power in the state – or at least 21 – if it wants to strike a seating arrangement with the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and Independent MLAs.
In most of the seats, the battle for votes is directly between the BJP and Congress, while in two or three seats of Gwalior Chambal region, a triangular contest is expected because of the presence of the Bahujan Samaj Party, political observers said.
The Congress has made the elections a vote on the “betrayal” of Scindia and his loyalists, who the party says ditched the mandate of the people. Scindia, on the other hand, blamed Congress leaders like Nath and Digvijaya Singh of betraying the trust of the people by running a corrupt government.
Campaigning in the state was marked by acrimonious exchanges between Congress and BJP leaders, which culminated into the Election Commission’s decision to remove Nath as a star campaigner for repeated poll code violations. The commission had cited Nath’s use of a derogatory term for BJP leader Imarti Devi, who is also a candidate in the bye-polls. The poll panel had issued a notice to Nath on October 21 for calling Devi an “item”. On Monday, the Supreme Court stayed the Election Commission’s order.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Nath said Chouhan has lied in the last six months and has done nothing for the development of the state. “Voters will now give a chance to Congress to work for the state,” he added.
Morena Superintendent of Police Anurag Sujaniya said there were reports of violence at a few places away from polling booths, adding that it did not affect the voting. “We’re probing videos of firing and have arrested few people in one such firing incident,” he said. Earlier, a firing incident was reported at the Jatawar polling booth in Morena’s Sumawali area, halting the voting process. A man sustained injuries in the firing and was admitted to a hospital.
In Gujarat, the political future of five former Congress MLAs who switched over to the BJP are at stake in the Assembly bye-elections on Tuesday.
Eight Congress MLAs had resigned as legislators in the run up to the Rajya Sabha elections in the state in June. Five of them – Pradyumansinh Jadeja (Abdasa constituency), Brijesh Merja (Mobri), JV Kakadiya (Dhari), Akshay Patel (Karjan) and Jitu Chaudhary (Kaprada) – defected to the BJP.
They are now seeking to retain their seats by contesting the bye-elections as BJP candidates. The rest have either been suspended by Congress or have resigned from the party.
A total 93 candidates are in the fray for the elections to seven Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh. Among the seats going to polls is Bangarmau, where the vacancy arose after BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar was convicted of rape and murder. Sengar was convicted of raping a woman in 2017, who was a minor at the time. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in December and was also ordered to pay Rs 25 lakh as compensation to the complainant.
Deoria Assembly seat was left vacant after the death of Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Janmejay Singh.
Sangeeta Chauhan, the BJP candidate from Naugaon Sadat, alleged that fake votes were being cast and demanded that voting be done only after ‘burqas’ are removed. Chief Electoral Officer Ajay Kumar Shukla said he would look into the allegations.
Further, Firozabad residents have decided to boycott the bye-polls alleging a lack of development in the area.
The bye-elections in Karnataka are being held in Rajarajeshwari Nagar (RR Nagar) in Bengaluru and Sira in Tumkur.
The bye-poll to RR Nagar was necessitated when the seat fell vacant in July last year after Congress MLA N Munirathna defected to the BJP, and is now contesting on the party’s ticket, according to The Indian Express. The Congress has fielded H Kusuma, the daughter of Janata Dal (Secular) leader Hanumantharayappa. V Krishnamurthy, a local leader, has been fielded by the JD(S) this time.
The Sira seat fell vacant after the Janata Dal (Secular) candidate B Satyanarayana, who won the 2018 polls, died in August. The Congress has fielded senior leader and former minister TB Jayachandra, while CM Rajesh Gowda, the son of former Congress MP CP Mudalagiriyappa, is the BJP candidate. The Janata Dal (Secular), meanwhile, has fielded Ammajamma, the wife of the late MLA Sathyanarayana.
In Odisha, the Assembly seats of Tirtol and Balasore Sadar are going to polls. The bye-election in Balasore was necessitated by the death in June of the BJP MLA Madan Mohan Dutta, and the party has fielded his son Manas Kumar Dutta from the seat. The Tirtol bye-election too is required to fill the seat after the death of the Biju Janata Dal’s Bishnu Charan Das in July. The BJD has fielded Das’ son, Bijay Shankar Das, from there.
A total of 28 candidates are in the race for the two seats in Jharkhand – Dumka and Bermo. The bye-election in Dumka was necessitated after Chief Minister Hemant Soren decided to retain the Barhait seat and give up Dumka. The chief minister’s younger brother Basant Soren and former Cabinet minister Lois Marandi of the BJP are contesting for the seat.
The election for the Bermo constituency was required after Congress MLA Rajendra Prasad Singh died in May. While the BJP has fielded Yogeshwar Mahato, the Congress has Anup Singh contesting for the seat.
Bye-elections are being held for the Southern Angami-I seat in Kohima district and the Pungro-Kiphire seat in Kiphire district. The exercise was necessitated by the deaths of then Assembly Speaker Vikho-o Yhoshu and T Torechu of the Naga People’s Front, respectively.
Thirty-four candidates are in the fray for the by-election in Dubbaka Assembly constituency in Siddipet district. The seat fell vacant after the demise of the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samithi MLA Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy.
Fourteen candidates, including wrestler and BJP candidate Yogeshwar Dutt, are in the fray for the Baroda seat. It fell vacant after Congress MLA Shri Krishan Hooda died in April.