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Voting in 10 states underway, Kairana under spotlight in BJP vs Opposition battle

Voter turnout was slow in Kairana constituency seat with only 12 per cent polling recorded in the first two hours.

india Updated: May 31, 2018 09:37 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Kairana,Kairana bypoll,Kairana by-election
Women queue outside a polling booth at Sonta Rasoolpur village in Uttar Pradesh on May 28.(S Raju/HT Photo)

Voters made a slow start at some polling stations on Monday in the bypolls to four Lok Sabha constituencies, including the politically-crucial Kairana, and ten assembly seats across the country, which are being seen as a tryout ahead of the 2019 general elections for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a now united opposition.

By-elections are also being held in Bhandara-Gondiya and Palghar parliamentary constituencies in Maharashtra and Nagaland Lok Sabha seat.

Read more: Live updates on bypoll results

Polling is underway for assembly seats in RR Nagar in Karnataka; Gomia and Silli constituencies of Jharkhand; Noorpur in Uttar Pradesh; Shahkot in Punjab; Jokihat in Bihar; Chengannur in Kerala; Palus Kadegaon in Maharashtra; Ampati in Meghalaya; Tharali in Uttarakhand and Maheshtala in West Bengal.

The votes will be counted on May 31.

Slow start in Kairana

Voting for Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh and the Noorpur assembly seats began amid tight security at 7am and will continue till 6pm.

An election official said only 12% polling has been recorded in the first two hours in Kairana parliamentary seat.

The main contest in Kairana is between Mriganka Singh of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) candidate Tabassum Hasan.

Singh, daughter of the late BJP legislator from Kairana Hukum Singh, is counting on the sympathy wave the death of her father and the power of the Yogi Adityanath government to win the election. And Hasan is pinning her hopes on the opposition unity as the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Nishad Party, Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have extended their support to her.

Kairana, around 630km from Lucknow, has five assembly segments and an electorate of nearly 1.7 million with a significant number of Muslims, Jats and Dalit voters.

In Noorpur, BJP’s Avni Singh is pitted against Naimul Hasan of the SP. There are 3,06,226 male voters, 1,41,924 women and 10 from the third gender.

The opposition hopes to repeat the success of the Gorakhpur and Phulpur by-elections in March in which the ruling BJP suffered unexpected defeats. The BJP is trying to retain the seat and send a message to voters, party cadre as well as the opposition parties that the drubbing in Gorakhpur and Phulpur was an aberration.

Kairana has been in the news over the reported 2016 exodus of Hindu families from the area.

Other Lok Sabha bypolls

The focus of political parties and pundits is also on the by-elections to Palghar and Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra.

The Shiv Sena has fielded late BJP MP Chintaman Wanaga’s son Shriniwas Wanaga in Palghar much to the dislike of the saffron party, which has nominated Congress deserter Rajendra Gavit.

The fourth Lok Sabha bypoll is being held in Nagaland, where the by-election was necessitated after the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) leader Neiphiu Rio, now chief minister of Nagaland resigned as a Lok Sabha member in February.

Till 9:00am, the state recorded 24% overall polling. Pughoboto with 33% recorded the highest percentage while Kohima with 17% was the lowest. Nearly 12 lakh voters are exercising their ballot in the state.

It is being seen as a test of strength between C Apok Jamir, the candidate of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) supported by Congress, and the nominee of the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA).

The PDA, which has the NDPP and the BJP as its major constituents, has fielded former minister Tokheho Yepthomi in the seat.

Assembly seats

Jharkhand’s Silli assembly constituency recorded 18.22% polling till 9pm and in Gomia 14.4% voters cast their franchise. Polling started from 7am in the two constituencies.

Former Jharkhand chief minister and JMM working president Hemant Soren tweeted about malfunctioning of EVMs in several polling booths.

“I have received concerned calls from voters, polling agents regarding constant EVM malfunctioning in atleast 13 booths in Rahe and Sonahutu blocks under Silli constituency (sic),” he said.

Officials said 10% polling was reported till 10am in Tharali constituency in Uttarakhand that is witnessing bypoll after the death of BJP legislature Magan Lal Shah. The polling has been peaceful in the 178 booths in Tharali, which is reserved for the Scheduled Caste.

The bypoll is being seen as a litmus test for the Trivendra Rawat government after the saffron party riding on Modi wave won 57 out of 70 assembly constituencies in the 2017 state elections.

Unlike neighbouring Uttar Pradesh where the opposition is united to take on BJP, the scene is different in Tharali. However, its a direct fight between the BJP and Congress in the bypoll.

Five contestants are in the fray in the bypoll including Munni Shah from the BJP, Jeet Ram from Congress, Kunwar Ram from Communist Party of India (Marxist), Kasbi Lal from Uttarakhand Kranti Dal and Giri Ram an independent.

Munni Devi is the wife of late BJP legislature while Jeet Ram of Congress is the former legislator who represented constituency between 2012-2017.

There are 1.2 lakh voters, with an equal number of females and males voters, who will decide whether the seat will go to the BJP or Congress.

BJP state president Ajay Bhatt said his party connect with the voters, hard work of cadres, and the chief minister’s clean image would help them post an easy win. The opposition Congress feels “price rise” would prove too hot for the BJP.

According to officials, voting for the bypoll in Punjab’s Shahkot, necessitated by the death of Shiromani Akali Dal legislator Ajit Singh Kohar, which began at 7am has witnessed 31% voting till 11am.

The bypoll is being seen as a popularity test of the 14-month-old Congress government in the state. The Captain Amarinder Singh-led government has been facing criticism from the opposition for not fulfilling promises made to the voters in the run-up to the 2017 assembly elections.

Voter-verified paper audit trail machines at several booths were replaced during mock polls due to a technical snag at some during actual polling.

Heavy polling in Kerala’s Chengannur

The scene, however, was different in Kerala’s Chengannur assembly constituency where people turned out in large numbers to cast their franchise in the morning as bypoll despite rains.

The outcome of the bypoll is widely seen as a referendum on the performance of the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government in the state and Narendra Modi government at the Centre.

While CPI(M)’s Saji Cheriyan, the party’s Alappuzha district secretary, is the candidate of the Left Democratic Front (LDF), Congress leader D Vijayakumar is the United Democratic Front (UDF) nominee. Former president of the BJP state unit PS Sreedharan Pillai is also testing his luck once again from the constituency.

The bypoll was necessitated following the death of sitting MLA KK Ramachandran Nair (CPM) in January this year due to illness.

In Bihar’s Jokihat assembly seat, 29% voting was registered till 11am and the polling was peaceful, officials said.

The Jokihat assembly seat fell vacant after the then Janata Dal (United) MLA Sarfaraz Alam resigned to contest the Araria Lok Sabha by-poll on Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) ticket.

Alam won the Araria byelection, which was necessitated by the death of Sarfaraz Alam’s father and RJD legislator Mohammad Taslimuddin.

Nine candidates, including six independents, are in the fray but the main contest is believed to be between JD(U)’s Murshid Alam and RJD’s Mohammad Shahnawaz Alam, who is the younger brother of Sarfaraz.

Over 2.70 lakh voters are expected to exercise their franchise in 331 booths.

There is a three-cornered contest with the ruling Trinamool Congress, the BJP and the Left Front in the fray in Mahestala assembly seat.

In Meghalaya’s Ampati seat, the fight is mainly between the Congress and the BJP-backed National Peoples Party. The Congress won 21 seats in the February assembly polls, but the count came down to 20 with Sangma vacating the seat.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: May 28, 2018 12:56 IST