Over 72 per cent voter turnout was registered in the Maihar assembly seat by-poll on Saturday. Except sporadic incidents of skirmishes at some polling booths the polling went off peacefully.
Fifteen candidates, including 10 independents, are in the fray. The counting of votes will take place on February 16.
Over 72% voters have exercised their franchise till 5 pm. The polling was peaceful, an official with the chief electoral office said.
Earlier in the day, Tiskili villagers boycotted the poll to protest against the failure of the administration to construct a bridge over the Tamas river and a road. The villagers, however, cast their votes after a sub-divisional magistrate was sent to the village to placate them.
Heavy police force was deployed at all the 291 polling centres, which witnessed more than 60% polling by 3 pm. Technical snags in electronic voting machines (EVMs) were reported from at least a half-a-dozen polling centres. These were later replaced.
BJP’s Narayan Tripathi told reporters at Latagaon polling centre that people of the constituency had voted for development of the area. Meanwhile, Congress’ Manish Patel said the fight was between the Opposition’s truth and the ruling party’s lie.
The heavy turnout of voters surprised the ruling party in particular and sent a wave of jubilation to the Opposition. “The heavy polling is a clear indication of people’s anti-establishment votes. The state government in general and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in particular, stands exposed on their false claims on development,” said state Congress spokesperson Pankaj Chaturvedi.
However, the BJP maintained that heavy voting was an indicator of pro-development wave. “People of Maihar voted for development and they expressed faith in the BJP. Since Congress won this seat in 2013 the heavy polling definitely went against the Congress,” said state BJP vice-president Vijesh Lunwat.
The bypoll is a prestige issue for both the Congress and the BJP. Congress won the seat in 2013 assembly elections, but its MLA Narayan Tripathi switched over to the BJP and resigned from the seat. He was made BJP candidate in the election in the bypoll.
Congress made all-out efforts to retain the seat, while dubbing Tripathi as a turncoat, while for the BJP a win in the election is much required after its humiliating defeat in Jhabua Lok Sabha seat bypoll.