New Delhi: Bypolls to four Lok Sabha seats, including the politically-crucial Kairana in Uttar Pradesh and ten Assembly constituencies spread across ten states will be held on Monday.
Kairana constituency in UP has virtually assumed the dimension of a strategic player in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Located around 630 km from capital city of Lucknow, the Lok Sabha constituency has five Assembly segments namely Shamli, Thana Bhawan and Kairana in Shamli district and Gangoh and Nakur in Saharanpur district. There are nearly 17 lakh voters in the constituency with a significant number of Muslims, Jats and Dalit voters. The constituency fell vacant after the death of BJP MP Hukum Singh, whose daughter Mriganka Singh is now the party's candidate for the bypolls. She is fighting Rashtriya Lok Dal's (RLD) Tabassum Hasan, who is supported by the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The withdrawal of candidature of Lok Dal candidate Kanwar Hasan from the fray and his joining of the RLD has only added to the opposition's confidence.
The ruling BJP, on the other hand, is making extra efforts to retain the seat to try and send a strong message to voters, party cadres as well as the opposition parties - that the drubbing in the Gorakhpur and Phulpur bypolls was an aberration and that it was still strong in western UP. The Yogi Adityanath-led state government has left no stone unturned in campaigning for the bypolls. Yogi along with his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya campaigned in Saharanpur and Shamli. Apart from them, the BJP has thrown in at least five state ministers into the 'fight for Kairana'. They include Dharam Singh Saini (minister of state for Ayush), Suresh Rana (sugarcane development minister), Anupama Jaiswal (basic education minister) Surya Pratap Shahi (agriculture minister) and Laxmi Narayan (religious affairs, culture, minority welfare, waqf and Haj minister). Of these, Saini and Rana are MLAs from Nakur and Thana Bhawan Assembly segments, respectively of the constituency. Jaiswal is the minister in-charge of Shamli district, while Surya Pratap Shahi is the minister in charge of Saharanpur.
Besides Kairana in western UP, bypolls will be held in Bhandara-Gondiya and Palghar parliamentary constituencies in Maharashtra and Nagaland Lok Sabha seat. All four major parties in Maharashtra - the Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and the NCP - have pulled out all stops for the Lok Sabha bypolls. The Shiv Sena has fielded late BJP MP Chintaman Wanaga's son Shriniwas Wanaga in Palghar, much to the dislike of the BJP which has in-turn nominated Congress deserter Rajendra Gavit. The bypolls in Palghar was necessitated due to the death of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Wanaga in January 2018. In Bhandra-Gondia, Nana Patole quit as the BJP MP and resigned from the ruling party to return to the Congress earlier in 2018, necessitating the bypolls. The ruling party has locked horns with the NCP for retaining the Bhandara-Gondia Lok Sabha seat while in Palghar, it is in a direct fight with the ally Shiv Sena even though the contest is multi-cornered.
In Nagaland capital Kohima, Chief Electoral Officer Abhijit Sinha said that all arrangements had been made for the peaceful conduct of the bypoll to the lone Lok Sabha seat in the northeastern state. The bypolls is a straight contest between ruling Peoples Democratic Alliance (PDA) candidate Tokheho Yepthomi and opposition NPF nominee C Apok Jamir. The Lok Sabha bypolls was necessitated following the resignation of Neiphiu Rio from the Lok Sabha to contest the Nagaland Assembly election in February. Rio is presently the chief minister of the state.
The Assembly bypolls will take place in Maharashtra (Palus Kadegaon constituency), UP (Noorpur), Bihar (Jokihat), Jharkhand (Gomia and Silli), Kerala (Chengannur), Meghalaya (Ampati), Punjab (Shahkot), Uttarakhand (Tharali) and West Bengal (Maheshtala).
The bypolls in Mahestala Assembly seat in West Bengal will mainly witness a three-corner contest with the ruling Trinamool Congress, the BJP and the Left Front in the fray. The TMC has fielded Dulal Das, husband of late party MLA Kasturi Das whose death has necessitated the bypolls, while the BJP, which is trying to emerge as the main challenger to the TMC, has nominated Sujit Ghosh, former joint director of the CBI. The Left Front, on the other hand, has given a ticket to Prabhat Chowdhury, a local.
In Bihar, it would be another test of strength between Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) and RJD of Lalu Prasad at Jokihat in Araria district. The bypolls to the Jokihat Assembly seat in Bihar has been necessitated due to the resignation of JD(U) MLA Sarfaraz Alam, who quit the party earlier in 2018 and got elected on an RJD ticket to the Lok Sabha from Araria, a seat held by his late father Mohammad Taslimuddin. While Alam's younger brother Shahnawaz filed nomination papers as an RJD candidate, the JD(U) has fielded Murshid Alam, a former village Mukhiya who had joined the party a few years ago. Jokihat bypolls comes about two months after the RJD succeeded in retaining the Araria Lok Sabha seat, defeating BJP's Pradip Kumar.
In Jharkhand's Gomia Assembly seat, though there is a total of 13 candidates, the main contest is between BJPs Madhavlal Singh, AJSU's Lambodar Mahto and Jharkhand Mukti Morchas Babita Devi, wife of disqualified MLA Yogendra Mahto. In Silli, also in Jharkhand, of the total ten candidates, the main contest will be between the former deputy CM and AJSU president Sudesh Mahto and Seema Mahto, wife of disqualified MLA Amit Mahto. The bypolls in both Gomia and Silli Assembly seats were necessitated following the conviction of Yogendra Mahto (Gomia) and Amit Mahto (Silli). Both were elected on JMM tickets in the 2014 Assembly elections.
The bypolls in Meghalaya's Ampati seat will witness a fight between the Congress and the BJP-backed National Peoples Party. An independent candidate is also in the fray. Former Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma has vacated the Ampati seat which necessitated the bypolls. The Congress had won 21 seats in February Assembly poll which has now come down to 20 with Sangma vacating the seat. The NPP with 19 MLAs is leading a coalition government with the support of the UDP (6), PDF (4), HSPDP (2), BJP (2), NCP (1) and an Independent. The Congress has fielded Mukul Sangma's daughter Miani D Shira as its candidate while Clement G Momin is pitted against her as the candidate of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance.
The counting of votes will take place on May 31.
(With PTI inputs)