NEW DELHI: Voting began on Monday in the by-election to six assembly constituencies in five states and the Mainpuri parliamentary seat in Uttar Pradesh.
Rampur Sadar and Khatauli in Uttar Pradesh, Padampur in Odisha, Sardarshahar in Rajasthan, Kurhani in Bihar and Bhanupratappur in Chhattisgarh are the assembly seats where the bypolls are being held.
Election authorities have made elaborate arrangements for the by-elections. The polling was being held amid tight security arrangements.
In Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Chhattisgarh, the polling began at 7 am, while in Rajasthan it started at 8 am.
Mainpuri, Rampur Sadar, Khatauli assembly seats in UP
Voting percentage till 3 PM
In Uttar Pradesh, a direct contest between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) alliance is on the cards in bypolls to the Rampur Sadar and Khatauli assembly seats and the Mainpuri Lok Sabha constituency.
The BSP and Congress are not contesting the bypolls.
The by-election to the Mainpuri Lok Sabha seat is taking place due to the death of Samajwadi Party (SP) founder Mulayam Singh Yadav, while the bypolls in Rampur Sadar and Khatauli were necessitated after SP MLA Azam Khan and BJP MLA Vikram Singh Saini were disqualified following their conviction in separate cases.
While Khan was disqualified after a court awarded him three-year imprisonment in a 2019 hate speech case, Saini lost his membership of the assembly after his conviction in a 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots case.
The outcomes of the bypolls will not have any impact on the central or the state governments as the BJP enjoys a comfortable majority at both levels.
However, a win would provide a psychological advantage ahead of the 2024 general elections.
There are six candidates in the fray in Mainpuri, 14 candidates in Khatauli and 10 in Rampur Sadar, according to the Election Commission.
In Mainpuri, Mulayam Singh Yadav's elder daughter-in-law and SP president Akhilesh Yadav's wife Dimple Yadav is pitted against BJP's Raghuraj Singh Shakya.
The BJP candidate, who was once a close associate of Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party chief and Akhilesh Yadav's uncle Shivpal Singh Yadav, joined the saffron party ahead of the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls held earlier this year.
The BJP has fielded Akash Saxena, who is the son of former party MLA Shiv Bahadur Saxena, in Rampur Sadar against senior SP leader Azam Khan's protege Asim Raja.
In Khatauli, the fight is between Vikram Singh Saini's wife Rajkumari Saini and Madan Bhaiya from the RLD.
Bihar's Kurhani records 24% as of 11 AM
In the Kurhani assembly segment in Bihar, a total of 13 candidates are in the fray.
The JD(U) is contesting the seat where the by-election has been necessitated by the disqualification of RJD MLA Anil Kumar Sahani.
The success of JD(U) candidate Manoj Singh Kushwaha, a former MLA, will cement Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's position, while a loss may embolden his detractors.
The counting of votes for the single parliamentary and six assembly seats will be held on December 8, coinciding with the ballot count for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assembly elections.
Odisha's Padampur records 37% as of 1 PM
Over 37 per cent polling was recorded in the first two hours of voting in Odisha's Padampur assembly constituency, an Election Commission official said.
Long queues were seen in front of several polling stations even before the voting process started at 7 am.
"Tight security arrangements have been made in all 319 polling stations. At least 8.5 per cent of eligible voters have exercised their franchise till 9 am," the EC official said.
The voting will continue till 4 pm.
Odisha's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) S K Lohani said glitches in EVMs were reported in four booths, following which all these voting machines were replaced.
He appealed to people to cast their votes without any fear.
Over 2.57 lakh voters, including 12 members of the transgender community, are eligible to exercise their franchise in the by-poll.
The by-election assumes significance in the wake of the BJD's loss in Dhamnagar, its first such defeat since 2009, with many in political circles claiming that the result would also indicate if electoral scales were tilting against the Naveen Patnaik-led party ahead of the 2024 state elections.
At least 1,400 police personnel and nine companies of central paramilitary forces have been deployed for the by-election, the official said.
All the entry and exit points of the constituency were sealed as the assembly segment was earlier considered a Maoist-infested area, he said.
Seventy-nine polling booths are identified as 'critical', Lohani said.
There are 15 model booths and six pink ones, which have women security personnel and polling officials.
Pick-up and drop arrangements have been made for voters with physical disabilities, the EC official said.
Votes will be counted on December 8.
The by-election to the Padampur seat in Odisha was necessitated by the death of BJD legislator Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha.
As many as 10 candidates are in the fray for the by-election.
The bypoll assumes significance in the wake of the BJD's loss in Dhamnagar, its first such defeat since 2009, with many in political circles claiming that the result would also indicate if electoral scales were tilting against the Naveen Patnaik-led party ahead of 2024 state elections.
The BJD has nominated from the seat the deceased MLA's daughter, Barsha, who is set to take on BJP's Pradip Purohit, a former MLA, and Congress candidate and three-time legislator Satya Bhusan Sahu, among others.
Chhattisgarh's Bhanupratappur records 9.89 % as of 9 AM
An average voter turnout of 9.89 per cent was recorded till 9 am in the by-election to Bhanupratappur Assembly seat in Chhattisgarh's Kanker district on Monday, a poll official said.
The bypoll to Bhanupratappur seat, reserved for Scheduled Tribes, in the Maoist-hit Kanker was necessitated due to the death of Congress MLA and deputy speaker of the Assembly Manoj Singh Mandavi last month.
As many as seven candidates are in the fray, though it is largely a direct contest between the ruling Congress and the BJP.
The Congress has fielded Savitri Mandavi, the wife of the deceased MLA, while the BJP nominee is former MLA Brahmanand Netam.
Sarva Adivasi Samaj, an umbrella body of tribal communities in Bastar, has also fielded former Indian Police Service Officer Akbar Ram Korram, who is contesting as an Independent. Korram retired as Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police in 2020.
Rajasthan's Sardarshahar records 20 per cent votes polled till 11 AM
The Sardarshahar seat in Rajasthan was held by Congress MLA Bhanwar Lal Sharma (77) who passed away on October 9 after a prolonged illness.
The Congress has fielded the late Sharma's son Anil Kumar while former MLA Ashok Kumar is the BJP candidate.
Eight other candidates are in the fray.
"The polling has begun amid tight security arrangements," a poll official said. (THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)