Thursday, Jul 07, 2022
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Polling Commences For By-Elections In West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra And Chhattisgarh

In West Bengal, by-election is being held for Asansol Lok Sabha seat and Ballygunge assembly segment in West Bengal; while as in Bihar by-election is being held to the Bochahan assembly seat in the state’s Muzaffarpur district. The voting is also underway in Maharashtra’s Kolhapur North Assembly seat and Chhattisgarh’s Khairagarh Assembly seat.

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Polling starts for by-polls in West Bengal and Bihar.(File photo-Representational image) PTI Photo

Polling began at 7 am on Tuesday for the by-election to the Asansol Lok Sabha seat and Ballygunge assembly segment in West Bengal amid tight security arrangements, an election official said.

Altogether 680 of the total 2,012 booths in Asansol in Paschim Bardhaman district, and all the 300 booths in Ballygunge in south Kolkata have been identified as "sensitive", he said.

Around 15 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise in Asansol. There are around 2.5 lakh voters in Ballygunge.

A total of 133 companies of central forces have been deployed in the two constituencies – 70 in Ballygunge and the remaining in Asansol. 

The polling will continue till 6.30 pm.

The by-elections were necessitated as Babul Supriyo resigned as the MP of Asansol after switching over to the TMC from the BJP, while state minister Subrata Mukherjee, who represented Ballygunge, died last year.

The TMC has fielded yesteryear actor Shatrughan Sinha in Asansol, which has a substantial Hindi-speaking population. The BJP has nominated Asansol Dakshin MLA Agnimitra Paul.

Mamata Banerjee's party has fielded Supriyo in Ballygunge where he is pitted against BJP's Keya Ghosh and CPI(M)’s Saira Shah Halim. The Congress is also in the fray in both the seats.

Meanwhile, polling also began for the by-election to the Bochahan assembly seat in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district amid tight security, officials said.

A total of 2.90 lakh voters will decide the fates of 13 candidates, three of them women, in the by-election, they said.

Altogether 1.53 lakh men, 1.47 lakh women and four voters of the third gender will exercise their franchise at 350 polling centres, which are being manned by 1,500 security personnel, they said.

By-poll to the seat was necessitated by the death of MLA Musafir Paswan, who had won on the ticket of Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP) of Bollywood set designer-turned-politician Mukesh Sahani.

Sahani, who initially wanted to field the deceased MLA's son Amar, recently lost his ministerial berth, and subsequently the trust of his prospective candidate. Amar jumped ship and is now in the fray as the candidate of the RJD, which his father had defeated to win the seat.

Sahani has now fielded Gita Devi, whose father Ramai Ram was the RJD candidate in the 2020 assembly polls.

The BJP, the former benefactor of Sahani which now seeks to prove a point after having got his scalp, has fielded Baby Kumari who enjoys the image of a “giant killer” in the constituency.

She had won the seat in 2015, contesting as an Independent, defeating Ramai Ram who had represented Bochahan multiple times and on tickets of various parties.

Also in the fray are the Congress, which appears to have been dumped by the RJD for good, four Independents and candidates of lesser parties, including AIMIM of Asaduddin Owaisi.

For Sahani, who risks losing his legislative council seat in a few months, the hustings are an occasion to prove his own political mettle, away from the protective shadow of a bigger player.

For the BJP, a win will bring the assurance that the unceremonious expulsion of Sahani, its former protégé who uses the nickname "son of Mallah", has not resulted in a backlash from the OBCs.

The RJD, which showed unmistakable signs of resurgence but fell short of the finishing line in the assembly elections, will be banking on its own formidable support base. 

Arguably the state’s principal pro-OBC party, it also hopes to cash in on the "humiliation" of Sahani as well as Chirag Paswan who was recently ousted from the house occupied by his late father Ram Vilas Paswan. 

During his intensive campaign, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav repeatedly attacked the NDA over the expulsion of Sahani from the state cabinet and the political isolation, exemplified by physical eviction from the Delhi bungalow, of Chirag.

Chirag, who now heads Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), a splinter group of his father's party, has fielded no candidate though the reserved assembly segment has sizeable Dalit votes.

This has given rise to speculations of some backdoor political understanding which might come to the fore after the results are out.

The counting of votes will take place on Saturday, April 16.

Maharashtra

The voting was also underway for the bypoll to Kolhapur North Assembly constituency in Maharashtra.

The bypoll was necessitated following the death of sitting Congress MLA Chandrakant Jadhav due to COVID-19 in December 2021.

The polling began at 7 am and will end at 6 pm, an election official said. 

Counting of votes will be taken up on April 16.

There are 15 candidates in the fray, and the main fight is likely to be between the Congress, one of the constituents of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state, and the opposition BJP.

Jayashree Jadhav, the wife of the late MLA, is the Congress candidate, while the BJP has fielded Satyajit Kadam.

According to the district administration, over 2.90 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise for which 357 polling stations have been set up.

Superintendent of Police Shailesh Balkawde on Monday appealed to voters to come out in large numbers to exercise their franchise.

Chhattisgarh

Voting began on Tuesday amid tight security for the bypoll to Khairagarh Assembly seat in Chhattisgarh's Naxal-affected Rajnandgaon district.

The bypoll was necessitated following the death of Janata Congress Chhattisgarh (J) legislator and former MP Devvrat Singh last November.  

A total of 10 candidates are in the fray.

“Polling began at 7 am and it will be held till 5 pm," a poll official here said.

“As many as 2,11,516 voters- 1,06,266 males and 1,05,250 females - can exercise their franchise, for which 291 polling stations have been set up. Of these, 53 have been recognised as hypersensitive polling booths and 11 as sensitive,” he said.

The counting of votes will be taken up on April 16. 

The official said 22 companies (each comprises around 100 personnel) of the Central Armed Police Force and state police personnel have been deployed for patrolling around Khairagarh, where the area bordering with Madhya Pradesh is considered as Naxal-affected.

The seat had witnessed a triangular contest in the 2018 Assembly polls when the JCC (J), then led by former state chief minister Ajit Jogi, had entered the poll arena. Khaiargarh was among the five seats won by the JCC(J) in the 90-member state Assembly.

Political experts feel this time the fight is mainly between the ruling Congress and opposition BJP in the state, as the JCC (J) has lost its appeal after the demise of Ajit Jogi in 2020. 

Devvrat Singh, who belonged to the erstwhile royal family of Khairagarh, quit the Congress in 2017 and joined JCC (J) the next year. He contested the 2018 assembly polls on the JCC(J) ticket from Khairagarh and defeated BJP candidate Komal Janghel by a thin margin of 870 votes.

This time, the BJP has again fielded Komal Janghel, a former MLA, while Yashoda Verma, the Khairagarh block unit chief of Congress, is the ruling party's nominee. Both Janghel and Verma belong to the Lodhi caste, a numerically powerful OBC community in the Khairagarh area. 

The JCC (J) has fielded Narendra Soni, a lawyer and member of the erstwhile royal family of Khairagarh.

The Congress has promised the people to make Khairagarh a district if it wins the seat, which was once its bastion.

Both the leading parties left no stone unturned in their efforts to woo the voters.  While the BJP deputed two Union ministers- Prahlad Singh Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste- and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for campaigning, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel led the Congress during the party's campaining.

In the 2018 Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, the Congress registered a landslide victory winning 68 seats in the 90-member House, decimating the BJP to 15 seats. 

The JCC (J) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) had bagged 5 and 2 seats, respectively. 

Subsequently, the state witnessed bypolls to three Assembly seats which were won by Congress, improving its tally to 70 in the Assembly.(With PTI inputs)
 

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