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Voting in bypolls to 4 Lok Sabha, 10 assembly seats today; BJP faces united opposition

By-elections to four Lok Sabha seats, including the politically significant Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, and 10 assembly constituencies across 10 states are being held today.

Besides Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh, other Lok Sabha seats that are voting are Palghar and Bhandara-Gondiya in Maharashtra and the lone seat in Nagaland.

While the BJP held three of these seats, its former ally Naga People’s Front (NPF) had won the Nagaland seat in 2014.

Bypoll to Kairana seat which fell vacant after the death of BJP MP Hukum Singh is witnessing a direct contest between the BJP and the united opposition – Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) – ahead of the 2019 general elections. The election has become crucial for the BJP as it comes against the backdrop of the party’s losses in two Lok Sabha seats earlier this year – Gorakhpur and Phulpur that were considered its strongholds – after archrivals SP and BSP joined hands in a tactical electoral understanding.

The opposition hopes that by consolidating anti-BJP votes, they will repeat the success of the Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha by-elections, where the ruling party suffered an unexpected defeat. The ruling BJP, on the other hand, has made an 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 bye-elections was an aberration, and that it was still strong in western UP.

In Maharashtra, all four major parties – the Congress, BJP, Shiv Sena and the NCP – have left no stone unturned to ensure a win as the outcome is likely to have a bearing on their future course.

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 bypoll in Palghar was necessitated due to the death of sitting BJP MP Chintaman Wanaga in January this year.

In Bhandra-Gondia, Nana Patole quit as the BJP MP and resigned from the ruling party to return to the Congress earlier this year, necessitating the by-election. The BJP is confident of retaining the two seats while the opposition feels setbacks to the ruling party in the bypoll would boost the vigour of the ‘anti-BJP camp’ and lead to new alignments in state politics.

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, bypoll was necessitated following the resignation of Neiphiu Rio, now chief minister of the state, from the Lok Sabha to contest the Nagaland Assembly election in February.

The election is a test of strength between the candidate of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) supported by Congress and the nominee of the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA). The PDA, which has the NDPP and the BJP as it major constituents, has fielded former minister Tokheho Yepthomi in the seat.

Apart from these Lok Sabha bypolls, the assembly by-elections are being held in Maharashtra (Palus Kadegaon constituency), Uttar Pradesh (Noorpur), Bihar (Jokihat), Jharkhand (Gomia and Silli), Kerala (Chengannur), Meghalaya (Ampati), Punjab (Shahkot), Uttarakhand (Tharali) and West Bengal (Maheshtala).

Besides, these bypolls, two constituencies in Karnataka — Rajarajeshwari Nagar and Jayanagar — are also heading for the polling booths to elect their Members of Legislative Assemblies. Voting had not happened in these two seats during the May 12 assembly polls.

The counting of votes will take place on May 31.

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