Assemly Bypolls: Campaign For By-Elections On 7 Seats In 6 States Ends, INDIA Set To Have First Face-Off With BJP

The bypolls are the first time that the Oppposition bloc INDIA is in a face-off with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). In Uttarakhand and West Bengal, however, the INDIA members have been unable to field joint candidates against BJP. The Congress- and CPI (M)-led blocs are in direct contest in Kerala.

Representative image for voting

The campaign for byelections in seven assembly seats in six states ended on Sunday. The voting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday. 

The bypolls are significant as it is the first time that the Oppposition bloc INDIA is having a face-off with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The 28 Opposition parties have together under the coalition named INDIA with the idea of putting a united front against the BJP in 2024 general election through joint candidates to consolidate all the non-BJP voters. 

The bypolls are taking place in Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Tripura, West Bengal, and Uttarakhand. 

The BJP-INDIA face-off is set to take place in UP and Jharkhand. In Kerala, the rival Pinarayi Vijayan's Left Development Front (LDF) and Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) are set for a face-ff and Opposition unity is stressed in West Bengal where Trinamool Congress (TMC) and CPI (M) are locked in a contest. 

The seats having bypolls are as follows: 

1. Dumri (Jharkhand) 
2. Puthupally (Kerala)
3. Boxanagar (Tripura)
4. Dhanpur (Tripura)
5. Dhupguri (West Bengal)
6. Ghosi (Uttar Pradesh)
7. Bageshwar (Uttarakhand) 

The bypolls in five constituencies were necessitated by the deaths of MLAs: Dumri: Jagarnath Mahto; Puthupally: Oommen Chandy; Boxanagar: Samsul Haque; Dhupguri: Bishnu Pada Ray; Bageshwar: Chandan Ram Das. The by-elections at Dhanpur and Ghosi are necessitated by the resignations of Pratima Bhoumik and Dara Singh Chauhan respectively. 

Uttar Pradesh bypolls at Ghosi

The assembly bypolls in Mau district's Ghosi will be held on Tuesday along with bypolls in other states. The primary contest is between BJP's Dara Singh Chauhan and SP candidate Sudhakar Singh. 

Chauhan had resigned as an MLA as he switched from SP to BJP. The resignation necessiated the bypolls.

The Ghosi bypolls are the first face-off of BJP-led Natioanl Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Opposition coalition INDIA in UP. 

The polls are crucial for both the BJP-led NDA and INDIA. As while BJP seeks to project strength, a win for the SP candidate would boost Akhilesh Yadav's credentials in the bloc regarding the state that sends the 80 MPs to Lok Sabha.

"It will also be an opportunity for the ruling dispensation to assert its hold in Uttar Pradesh to send out a message on how effective the INDIA alliance would be. A win for the SP will strengthen Akhilesh Yadav's position and role within the INDIA alliance and also seal his candidature for leading the bloc in the politically important state, which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha," notes PTI.

Dumri bypolls in Jharkhand

The contest in Jharkhand's Dumri assembly seat is between the ruling party Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), a cosntituent of INDIA, and NDA-member All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU). Both the sides are looking forward to score a symbolic victory. 

The PTI notes, "The seat has turned out to be a prestigious one for both alliances amid Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) claiming that the INDIA bloc will begin its victory journey from Dumri, while the NDA exuded confidence that it is all set to snatch the seat from JMM."

The JMM is counting on the legacy of Jagarnath Mahto, whose death necessiated the bypolls, and has fielded his wife Bebi Devi against AJSU's Yashoda Devi.

Top leaders of both the parties, including CM Hemant Soren, have campaigned for their candidates. 

"In a bid to retain the seat, top leaders of ruling partners including JMM, Congress and RJD camped in the constituency since beginning of the campaigning on August 21. Chief Minister Hemant Soren, who did several rallies including a road show, appealed the people to vote for INDIA candidate, which will be a true tribute to Mahto...AJSU Party chief Sudesh Mahto has been camping in the constituency to garner people’s support. The BJP and AJSU Party had raised the alleged failures of the current JMM-led government including corruption and deteriorating law and order," notes PTI.

TMC versus CPI (M) in West Bengal's Dhupguri bypolls

In Dhupguri seat in West Bengal, the CPI (M) and TMC, which are otherwise members of the Opposition alliance INDIA, are pitted against each other. 

The BJP is also in the fray, making it a triangular electoral contest. The Congress is in alliance with the CPI (M) for the bypolls.

The TMC-CPI (M) contest reveals one of the many internal contradictins of the INDIA bloc. The constituent parties face off each other in several states, such as in Kerala, Punjab, Delhi, and elsewhere. The leaders, however, have tried to dehyphenate the assembly elections (and state political equations) from national elections (and national political equations). 

"The INDIA opposition bloc faces a crucial test in the upcoming bypoll in Dhupguri assembly segment as its important constituents, TMC and Congress-CPI(M) alliance, fight it out against each other to wrest the rural seat in North Bengal from the BJP...The bypoll on September 5 is also a litmus test for all three political outfits, with the BJP hoping to check its erosion in its vote share and retain the seat, the TMC aiming to wrest the tribal-dominated assembly segment and the CPI(M)-Congress alliance hoping to regain its traditional seat," notes PTI.

CPI(M) leader Sujan Chakraborty said the fight in Bengal is against both the communal BJP and the misrule of the TMC, and the battle in Dhupguri, a seat which had been a bastion of the Left from 1977-2011, is no exception, reported PTI. The bypolls were necessiated by the death of sitting BJP MLA Bishu Pada Ray.


UDF versus LDF in Kerala

In Kerala, the ruling LDF and the Congress-led UDF alliance, both part of the INDIA bloc, are having a face-off for the Puthuppally assembly seat, which became vacant after the death of Congress stalwart Oommen Chandy.

"It had witnessed cyber attacks in candidates' family members, road shows by senior political leaders and challenges and counter challenges by the candidates. Even Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and his family came under attack during the campaign from the opposition UDF and BJP with both accusing him and his daughter of corruption in the wake of some alleged financial transactions between her firm and a Kochi-based minerals company," noted PTI.


Bageshwar bypolls in Uttarakhand

The traditional rivals BJP and Congress are set for a bipolar contest in the Bageshwar bypolls in Uttarakhand. 

The BJP has fielded Parvati Das, wife of Chandan Ram Das, whose death led to the bypolls, and the Congress has fielded Basant Kumar, who switched to the party from AAP.

Top leaders from the state units of both the parties have campaigned for the candidates. 

"Dhami, who also held roadshows in Garud and Bageshwar on Saturday along with the party candidate and BJP MP from Almora Ajay Tamta, said he was confident the lotus (BJP's election symbol) will bloom once again in the land of Baba Bagnath (Shiva)...Congress heavyweights like Harish Rawat, PCC president Karan Mahara and Leader of Opposition in the state assembly Yashpal Arya had also been camping in Bageshwar for the past few days to garner support for party candidate Basant Kumar," reported PTI.


While the contest is bipolar, the Samajwadi Party also fielded a candidate in a display of inability to field one joint candidate against the BJP. 

Bypolls in Tripura

Tripura is scheduled to have bypolls on Boxanagar and Dhanpur assembly seats. The BJP and CPI (M) are headed to a bipolar contest as Tipra Motha and Congress have stayed away from the polls. 

The PTI reported, "In both the constituencies, BJP organised mega rallies, road shows, motorbike rallies and door-to-door campaigns to reach out to voters...CPI(M) politburo member Manik Sarkar and party's state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury along with leaders campaigned for its candidates, but Tipra Motha, the main opposition, and Congress stayed away from campaigning making the electoral battle an one-on-one contest."


BJP's Tafajjal Hussain will face CPI(M)’s Mizan Hussain in minority-dominated Boxanagar constituency and the former Communist bastion Dhanpur is headed for direct fight between BJP's Bindu Debnath and CPI(M)’s Kaushik Debnath