Voting in bypolls for 3 LS, 33 assembly seats

Voting in bypolls for 3 LS, 33 assembly seats

Voting today began on a brisk note in by-elections to three Lok Sabha and 33 assembly constituencies spread across ten states, seen as a test of Narendra Modi government's popularity, especially as BJP braces for polls in two states next month.

Amid elaborate security arrangements, polling was being held in 11 Assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat in Uttar Pradesh, where the stakes are high for BJP. Around nine per cent votes were cast in the first two hours, according to poll officials.

The election comes after the saffron party's near-total sweep of the 80 seats in Lok Sabha polls just four months ago. Eleven Assembly seats felt vacant after 10 BJP MLAs and one of its ally Apna Dal were elected to the Lok Sabha.

BJP chief Amit Shah also faces the challenge in the bypolls in UP as he was credited with the party's stupendous success. The three Lok Sabha bypolls are in Vadodara (Gujarat), Mainpuri (Uttar Pradesh) and Medak (Telangana). Among the assembly seats, nine in Gujarat, four in Rajasthan, two in West Bengal, five in Northeastern states and one each in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh are going to polls today.

Counting of votes is scheduled for September 16. Retaining Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat, vacated by SP supremo Mualayam Singh Yadav who had won from two LS seats including Azamgarh, is a matter of prestige for his party. BSP and Congress have not fielded their candidates, leaving a straight contest between Tej Pratap Singh and BJP's Shiv Singh Shakya.

The 11 assembly seats in UP, whose outcome may be a pointer to which way the political wind is blowing in the run up to 2017 assembly polls, are Saharanpur Nagar, Noida, Thakurdwara, Bijnor, Nighasan, Balha, Sirathu, Rohaniya, Hamirpur, Charkhari and Lucknow East. All of these were vacated by BJP MLAs who won the Lok Sabha elections.

In Gujarat, Narendra Modi's successor as chief minister Anandiben Patel faces her first big test in by-elections beinge held today for Vadodara LS seat, vacated by Modi, and in nine assembly constituencies.

This is the first election in Gujarat in more than 12 years that BJP would be fighting without its star campaigner Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Polling began on a swift note for the by-election to Medak Lok Sabha seat in Telangana and Nandigama (SC) Assembly seat in Andhra Pradesh.

By-election is being held in Medak as the Lok Sabha seat was vacated by Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrasekhar Rao upon becoming Chief Minister of the newly-formed Telangana state.Medak LS seat, once part of undivided Andhra Pradesh and now in Telangana, witnesses a triangular contest between ruling TRS, BJP, and Congress. The bypoll was necessitated as TRS chief and chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao vacated the seat.

On the other hand, TDP is trying hard to prove it won't be easy to conquer its bastion Nandigama assembly in Krishna district where it is in a direct fight against Congress. The byelection was forced by the death of TDP MLA Tangirala Prabhakara Rao within days of his victory.

Voting was also underway in the lone insurgency-hit Antagarh assembly constituency in Chhattisgarh where only two candidates are in the fray. In West Bengal, Chowringhee and Dakshin Bashirhat assembly seats had been won by CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress for which the bypolls are a crucial test of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's popularity.

Buyoed by its modest gains in Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal and relying on Modi's charisma, BJP hopes to wrest the Bashirhat Dakshin seat from Trinamool and make its debut in the state assembly.Assembly elections will be held in Maharashtra and Haryana in a single phase on October 15.

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