Bye-elections to 58 Assembly constituencies across 11 states were held in two phases on November 3 and November 7. The highest number of Assembly seats that went to polls was in Madhya Pradesh, where 28 spots were vacant, followed by Gujarat with eight seats, seven in Uttar Pradesh, two each in Odisha, Karnataka, Nagaland, and Jharkhand. One seat each in Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Telangana also voted to elect their representatives.
Of all the seats, bye-elections for four in Manipur were held on November 7. Bye-poll to the Valmiki Nagar Lok Sabha constituency was also held on November 7 after the seat fell empty due to the death of sitting Janata Dal (United) MP Baidyanath Prasad Mahato in February.
Votes for all the seats will be counted on Tuesday.
There were a total 65 seats in state Assemblies lying vacant, but the Election Commission decided to hold off polls for seven in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Assam, and West Bengal. Assembly elections for all these states are scheduled for next year. The poll body, in a statement, said that the decision to not hold elections for these seats was taken after consulting state chief secretaries and election authorities.
Bye-polls in Madhya Pradesh were necessary after 22 sitting MLAs of the former Congress government in the state switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party in March. The Kamal Nath-led administration collapsed after this.
Three more Congress legislators in the state, led by Jyotiraditya Scindia and his supporters, quit the party to join the BJP. Apart from these seats, three fell vacant due to the death of the sitting MLAs.
The bye-elections are a litmus test of the popularity of four politicians – Nath of the Congress, the BJP’s Scindia, incumbent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and Narendra Singh Tomar. 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 MLAs in the House. The saffron party needs at least nine of these seats for it to cross the halfway mark in the Assembly. The Congress, on the other hand, needs to win all 28 seats if it wants to take back power in the state. The party will need at least 21 if it wants to strike a deal with the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and Independent MLAs.
The tussle for votes in the state is mostly a battle between the Congress and the BJP. However, in two to three seats of Gwalior’s Chambal region, the BSP has made its presence felt in the race to secure the seats.
The main contenders – the Congress and the BJP – have traded barbs during the campaign. Nath and his supporters hinged their campaign on Scindia’s “betrayal”, while the BJP leader shifted focus by alleging that the Congress was running a corrupt government.
The state’s campaign was marred with caustic remarks, with former Chief Minister Nath being censured by the Election Commission for using a derogatory term for BJP leader Imarti Devi, a candidate for the bye-elections. The poll panel had issued a notice to Nath on October 21 for calling Devi an “item”. The electoral body also removed Nath as a “star campaigner” for repeated poll code violations, but the Supreme Court stayed this order.
Meanwhile, the Congress called for re-polling in Morena’s Sumawali area and Mehgaon on November 3, after reports of firing and booth capture. However, the police said that violence reported in Morena had not affected the election process. Four people were arrested for their involvement in the firing incident.
Resignations of eight Congress MLAs brought on the need for bye-polls in the state. The legislators had quit days before the Rajya Sabha elections in June. Five of them joined the BJP soon after quitting, and the party has fielded them from the seats that they won in 2017.
Around 18.75 lakh voters chose from a total of 81 candidates for the eight seats of Abdasa in Kutch district, Karjan in Vadodara, Dang, Kaprada in Valsad, Morbi, Dhari in Amreli, Gadhada in Botad, and Limbdi in Surendranagar.
The five turncoat MLAs – Pradyumansinh Jadeja (Abdasa), Brijesh Merja (Mobri), JV Kakadiya (Dhari), Akshay Patel (Karjan) and Jitu Chaudhary (Kaprada) – are hoping to be re-elected from their constituencies. The bye-polls are also a chance for the BJP’s state unit chief CR Patil to realise his aim of winning all the 182 seats in the 2022 Assembly election.
The saffron party rallied behind its recent achievements, including the Ayodhya temple and the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, along with a sustained criticism campaign against the Congress.
Bye-polls to seven Assembly seats in the state had a total of 93 contenders. The seat to look out for is Bangarmau, which former BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar vacated after being convicted of rape and murder. In 2017, Sengar was accused of raping a woman who was a minor at the time. A life term was imposed on him in December.
Other six seats that went to polls were Naugawan Sadat, Bulandshahr, Ghatampur, Tundla, Deoria, and Malhani. The BJP had won all the seats, except for Malhani in Jaunpur district, in the 2017 Assembly polls.
The ruling Adityanath-led BJP government in the state faces an uphill battle with stiff competition from the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party. The Congress has also attempted to regain foothold in this politically significant state.
On October 29, BSP chief Mayawati’s support to the BJP in order to defeat the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party was seen as a sign of her softening her stand on the saffron party’s popularity in the state. However, four days later, she clarified that she would rather “quit politics” than ally with the BJP.
The Congress, meanwhile, has targeted the BJP for crimes against Dalits in the state, with primary focus on the Hathras gangrape and murder. However, the party has fielded Brahmin candidates like Arti Bajpai in Bangarmau, Rakesh Mishra at Malhani, and Mukund Bhaskar Tripathi in Deoria. The BSP has stayed with its earlier formula of giving tickets to Muslim politicians in two seats of western Uttar Pradesh – Bulandshahr and Naugawan Sadat.
A 19-year-old Dalit woman succumbed to her injuries at a hospital in Delhi on September 29 after four upper-caste Thakur men raped and tortured her on September 14. The Uttar Pradesh administration had then hurriedly cremated her body against her family’s wishes while they had been locked inside their home, leading to an outpouring of anger and protests. On October 10, the CBI took over the investigation, after the state government’s handling of the case came under public scrutiny.
The BJP has attempted to purify its image in the state, and has fielded candidates from Other Backward Classes, Thakur, Brahmin, and the Dhangar (herding) communities.
Bye-polls to four seats in Manipur’s Wangoi, Lilong, Wangjing Tentha, and Saitu were conducted on November 7, along with the third phase of the Bihar Assembly elections and the single Lok Sabha seat in Valmiki Nagar.
A turnout of 93.47% was recorded in the state that will decide the fate of 11 candidates. The bye-polls were required after four Congress MLAs resigned to join the BJP.
The saffron party has fielded candidates in three seats and supported an Independent in Lilong. The Opposition Congress contested in all the four seats. The Wangoi seat is expected to see a pitched battle between BJP ally National People’s Party and the Congress.
Karnataka, Odisha, Jharkhand, Nagaland, and Manipur (2 seats each)
Bye-elections were held for Karnataka’s Sirsa seat in Tumkur district and the Raja Rajeshwari Nagar seat in Bengaluru. The two constituencies are situated in south Karnataka, where the Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress have a stronger hold. Sirsa was vacated after the death of JD(S) leader B Satyaranarayana in August. The Raja Rajeshwari Nagar seat became empty in July 2019 after Congress leader Munirathna Naidu quit to join the BJP.
In Odisha, the Balasore Sadar and Tirtol seats went to polls. The election to the seat of Balasore Sadore was necessitated after the death of sitting BJP leader Madan Mohan Dutta in June. The saffron party aims to regain the seat by fielding the deceased politician’s son Manas Kumar Dutta. The Tirtol seat was to be filled after the death of Biju Janata Dal MLA Bishnu Charan Das in July. Bijay Shankar Das, the party leader’s son, contested the elections from the seat.
In Jharkhand, a total of 28 candidates contested for two seats – Dumka and Bermo. A bye-poll in Dumka was required after Chief Minister Hemant Soren announced he was retaining the Barhait seat instead of Dumka. The chief minister’s brother Basant Soren, and former Cabinet minister and BJP leader Lois Marandi hope to secure the seat. The seat of Bermo was vacated after Congress MLA Rajendra Prasad Singh died in May. The Congress has fielded Anup Singh against the BJP’s Yogeshwar Mahato.
For the two seats in Nagaland’s Southern Angami-1 and Pungro Kiphire constituencies, there were eight candidates. Three contested from Southern Angami-1 and the remaining five from the other seat. Deaths of Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party politician Vikho-o Yhoshu and T Torechu of the Naga People’s Front were the reason the seats fell vacant.
Chhattisgarh, Haryana, and Telangana (one seat each)
Chhattisgarh’s Marwahi seat fell vacant after the death of former Chief Minister Ajit Jogi in May. The seat has been in the Jogi family since 2003. His son Amit Jogi won it in 2013. The seat is a Scheduled Tribes-reserved constituency. The seat will see a tussle between the BJP and the Congress after the nomination papers of Amit Jogi and his wife Richa Jogi were rejected as the returning officer said their caste certificates were invalid.
Haryana’s Baroda Assembly seat, which fell vacant after Congress MLA Shri Krishan Hooda died in April, witnessed a contest between 14 candidates. Wrestler and BJP leader Yogeshwar Dutt was in the fray for the seat. The seat is a Congress bastion, and a constituency that the BJP has never been able to secure. Amid protests over the new farm bills, the ruling coalition of the BJP-Jannayak Janta Party will find it extremely tricky to realise their aspirations for this seat.
In Telangana, 34 candidates contested for the Dubbaka Assembly seat that needed filing after the death of Telangana Rashtra Samiti leader Ramalinga Reddy in August 2019.
In the first phase of voting, on November 3, a turnout of 66.09% was recorded in Madhya Pradesh till 5 pm, according to the Election Commission. Chattisgarh clocked a turnout of 71.99%, while 55.84% of the electorate in Gujarat voted. Jharkhand registered a voter percentage of 62.46%, Karnataka 51.30% and Odisha 68.08%.
In Nagaland, a 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 between 7 am and 6 pm, except in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Nagaland. The number of people allowed in a polling booth was controlled in view of the coronavirus-induced restrictions.
In the second phase, held on November 7, Manipur recorded a 93.47% turnout.