The Centre’s claim of public support for its demonetisation decision move will be put to test in the by-elections to a Lok Sabha and four assembly seats across three states in the northeast that began 7am on Saturday.
The bypolls are being held for the Lakhimpur parliamentary seat and Baithalangso assembly seat in Assam, Khowai and Barjala assembly seats in Tripura and Hayuliang assembly seat in Arunachal Pradesh.
The Lakhimpur seat was vacated by Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal before the state assembly polls in April this year while former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Kalikho Pul’s suicide necessitated the Hayuliang by-poll. Pul’s widow Dasanglu Pul is the BJP candidate for the Hayuliang seat against Congress-backed independent Yomki Kri.
The BJP, whose ally People’s Party of Arunachal rules the frontier state, is as upbeat about the Hayuliang seat as it is about Lakhimpur LS and Baithalangso assembly seat in Assam. The party is relying on Congress turncoats – Pradan Baruah in Lakhimpur and Mansing Rongpi in Baithalangso – for victory.
Baruah’s main rival is the Congress’ Hema Hari Prasanna Pegu, a doctor but political novice, while Mansing Rongpi is up against Rupansing Rongpi of the Congress.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is chest-thumping about demonetisation. This election will be a test of how popular his Tughlaq-like policies are,” former Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said.
In Tripura, the Trinamool Congress has shaped as the ruling Left Front’s major rival for the first time. The bypolls for the Barjala seat became necessary after Congress MLA Jitendra Sarkar switched over to the CPM while Samir Deb Sarkar, who was the CPM legislator from Khowai, died earlier this year.
In terms of number of voters, Hayuliang is the tiniest of the constituencies with just 11,003 voters. Three of its 81 polling stations – Kibitho, Aphumna and Taflagam – are close to the border with Tibet.
The results of the bypolls are scheduled to be declared on November 22.