Assembly bypolls: Telangana's Munugode records over 77% polling

Representational image. File photo

New Delhi: By-elections to seven assembly constituencies spread across six states were held on Thursday with the voter turnout ranging from 31.74 per cent in Andheri (East) of Maharashtra to 77.55 per cent in Telangana's Munugode seat.

Till last reports came in, the polling percentages in the five other seats were Mokama (53.45) and Gopalganj (51.48) of Bihar, Adampur (75.25) of Haryana, Gola Gokarannath (55.68) of Uttar Pradesh, and Dhamnagar (66.63) of Odisha. These figures are likely to change.

Officials said the bypolls were by and large peaceful barring some minor incidents.

Among the seven seats where bypolls are being held, the BJP held three seats and the Congress two, while the Shiv Sena and the RJD had one each. The contest is symbolic of the fierce turf war between the BJP and the regional parties.

For the bypolls in Bihar, the main contest is between the BJP and the RJD, and the saffron party's main contenders in Haryana are the Congress, INLD and the AAP. In Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, the main contests are between the BJP and the TRS, SP and the BJD respectively.

While a victory in the bypolls will be inconsequential to their position in the assemblies, the parties have not taken the contest lightly and carried out a high-pitched campaign.

The counting of votes will take place on November 6.

In Uttar Pradesh, the Samajwadi Party alleged that some polling centres were captured by workers of the ruling BJP. However, District Magistrate Mahendra Bahadur Singh ruled out the allegations, saying he personally visited the polling centres but found no such thing.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav alleged that police unnecessarily indulged in baton charge at some booths disrupting voting and at some places SP and Muslim voters were driven away. He also demanded an investigation into "why a BJP MLA kept roaming around with envelopes full of money in their car".

There were reports of clashes between BJD and BJP in two polling booths in Odisha's Rameswarpur when voting was underway, resulting in injuries to two persons.

The BJP is seeking to retain the Gola Gokarannath seat in Uttar Pradesh and Dhamnagar in the BJD-ruled Odisha, banking on sympathy votes as it has fielded the sons of sitting MLAs whose death necessitated the bypolls.

The BJP and the ruling TRS had been campaigning aggressively in Munugode in Telangana, where the Congress MLA had resigned and is fighting on the saffron party's ticket.

The Election Commission made elaborate arrangements for polling, including the deployment of 3,366 state police and 15 companies of central security personnel in Munugode. Webcasting was done from all the polling stations, officials said.

In Adampur, the by-election was necessitated after former chief minister Bhajan Lal's younger son Kuldeep Bishnoi resigned as MLA from the seat and switched from the Congress to the BJP in August. Bishnoi's son Bhavya is now contesting as the BJP candidate.

The Adampur seat has been held by the Bhajan Lal family since 1968, with the late ex-chief minister representing it on nine occasions, his wife Jasma Devi once, and Kuldeep on four occasions.

The Congress, Indian National Lok Dal, and Aam Aadmi Party are among the key parties contesting the bypolls.

The Congress fielded former Union minister Jai Prakash, a three-time MP from Hisar and two-time MLA, as well.

The INLD picked Congress rebel Kurda Ram Nambardar as its candidate. The AAP fielded Satender Singh, who switched over from the BJP.

Bihar saw the first electoral test for the Nitish Kumar-led 'Mahagathbandhan' government, formed less than three months ago after the JD(U) parted ways with the BJP.

The Mokama and Gopalganj seats in Bihar were earlier held by the RJD and the BJP respectively.

The BJP is contesting from the Mokama constituency for the first time as the saffron party had, on previous occasions, left the seat to its allies. Both the BJP and the RJD have fielded the wives of local musclemen in the bypolls.

BJP nominee Sonam Devi is up against RJD's Neelam Devi, whose husband Anant Singh's disqualification has necessitated the by-election.

Mokama is the stronghold of Anant Singh since 2005. He won the seat twice on JD(U) tickets and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has appealed to voters to support him.

Sonam Devi, the wife of local muscleman Lalan Singh who has been opposed to Anant Singh, is a greenhorn. Lalan is known to be a confidant of Suraj Bhan Singh, a dreaded gangster-turned-politician, who in the 2000 assembly election defeated Anant Singh's elder brother Dilip Singh who was a minister in the Rabri Devi government.

In Gopalganj, BJP fielded Kusum Devi, the wife of deceased party MLA Subhash Singh. The RJD fielded Mohan Gupta, while Indira Yadav, wife of Lalu Yadav's brother-in-law Sadhu Yadav, is contesting as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate.

Shiv Sena's Rutuja Latke is expected to comfortably win Andheri East Assembly constituency in Mumbai after the BJP withdrew from the contest which is the first after the recent split in the Shiv Sena following a rebellion by Eknath Shinde, who replaced Thackeray as the Maharashtra chief minister.

The NCP and Congress have supported her candidature.

The by-election was necessitated due to the death of Latke's husband and Shiv Sena MLA Ramesh Latke in May.

The Gola Gokarannath seat in Uttar Pradesh fell vacant after the death of BJP MLA Arvind Giri on September 6. With the BSP and the Congress keeping away from the bypolls, there seems to be a direct fight between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party.

The BJP has fielded Aman Giri, son of Arvind Giri, while the SP candidate is former Gola MLA Vinay Tiwari.

The BJD has fielded Abanti Das, the lone woman among the total five candidates in Dhamnagar. BJP MLA Bishnu Charan Sethi's death necessitated the bypoll. The saffron party, banking on sympathy votes, has fielded Sethi's son Suryabanshi Suraj.

The BJD's official candidate is facing a rebel as its former MLA Rajendra Das is in the fray as an Independent.

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