Rampur/Jalandhar: Bypolls held in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Odisha witnessed a moderate to high voter turnout on Wednesday, while Meghalaya registered an impressive polling percentage of over 90.
The bypolls were conducted for two Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, one each in Meghalaya and Odisha and the Jalandhar Lok Sabha constituency in Punjab.
According to the figures released by the Election Commission (EC) at 9 pm, a voter turnout of around 54 per cent was recorded in Jalandhar, while the Suar and Chhanbey Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh registered a polling percentage of 44.95 and 39.51 respectively. The Jharsuguda Assembly segment in Odisha witnessed 68.12 per cent polling while the Sohiong Assembly seat in Meghalaya recorded a voter turnout of 91.87 per cent.
The Jalandhar Lok Sabha seat fell vacant following the death of Congress MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary due to a cardiac arrest during the party’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in January. It witnessed a four-cornered electoral battle involving the ruling Aam Aadmi Party, the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD).
Prominent among those who exercised their franchise were AAP candidate Sushil Rinku, Congress nominee Karamjit Kaur Chaudhary, MLA Pargat Singh and AAP MP Balbir Singh Seechewal.
Opposition party leaders accused the AAP of violating the Model Code of Conduct by deploying “outsiders” at several booths, a charge denied by the ruling party.
The Congress candidate, through her election agent, wrote a letter to the chief election commissioner, alleging that AAP leaders and workers came from outside the constituency for campaigning and were present in almost every village and ward.
“The ruling AAP is misusing the government machinery and no action is being taken by the returning officer and the assistant returning officers,” she alleged.
A total of 16,21,800 voters — 8,44,904 males, 7,76,855 females and 41 third-gender voters — were eligible to exercise their franchise in the Jalandhar bypoll.
Nineteen candidates, including four women, were in the fray
The AAP fielded former MLA Sushil Rinku, who quit the Congress, while the Congress kept its faith in Karamjit Kaur, the wife of Santokh Chaudhary.
The BJP fielded Inder Iqbal Singh Atwal, a Dalit Sikh who quit the SAD to join the saffron party. Atwal is the son of former Punjab Assembly speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal.
The SAD fielded its two-time MLA from Banga, Sukhwinder Kumar Sukhi, who is a medical practitioner by profession. The SAD candidate was backed by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The seat is considered to be a stronghold of the Congress, which has remained undefeated here since 1999.
There was a direct contest between the ruling BJP-led coalition and opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) in the Suar and Chhanbey Assembly bypolls in Uttar Pradesh.
According to officials, a total of 6.62 lakh voters (3.51 lakh males, 3.11 lakh females and 82 third-gender voters) were eligible to cast their votes in the two constituencies. A total of 14 candidates — six in Suar and eight in Chhanbey — were in the fray.
Amid the SP’s charges that police prevented people from casting their votes in some booths, the Suar seat recorded 41.78 per cent polling, while Chhanbey recorded a voting percentage of 39.51 till 5 pm.
In a tweet from its official Twitter handle, the SP said: “In Khempur, Rasoolpur, Faridpur, Samodia in the Suar seat of Rampur, police are preventing voters from voting. Voters are returned from polling booths. Election Commission should take cognisance and ensure fair elections.”
In another tweet, the party accused state minister Ashish Patel (of Apna Dal-S) of threatening SP workers.
Officials, however, denied any discrepancies and said the polling was free and fair.
The Mayawati-led BSP did not contest the bypolls, while the Congress had fielded its candidate only in Chhanbey.
The Suar seat in Rampur district was held by Abdullah Azam Khan, the son of senior SP leader Azam Khan, before it was declared vacant on February 13 after a Moradabad court sentenced the former to two years in jail in a 15-year-old case.
The SP went all out to defend its ”last citadel” in Rampur, while the Apna Dal (Sonelal), an ally of the BJP, had also left no stone unturned to breach it, especially after the saffron party managed to snatch the Rampur Assembly as well as parliamentary seats, both of which were Azam Khan’s stronghold.
Azam Khan himself was disqualified from the Uttar Pradesh Assembly last year after a court sentenced him to three years in jail in a hate speech case.
In the 2022 Assembly polls, Abdullah Azam Khan had defeated Haidar Ali Khan of the Apna Dal (Sonelal) from Suar by a margin of more than 61,000 votes.
This time, the SP had fielded Anuradha Chauhan from the seat and Apna Dal (Sonelal) had nominated Shafeek Ahmed Ansari.
The Chhanbey seat in Mirzapur district fell vacant following the death of Apna Dal (Sonelal) MLA Rahul Prakash Kol in February. The party had fielded Kol’s wife, Rinki Kol, while Kirti Kol was the SP hopeful.
In the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly, the ruling BJP has 255 MLAs and its allies Apna Dal (Sonelal) and NISHAD Party have 11 and six legislators respectively.
The SP has 109 MLAs, while its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has nine. The Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party (SBSP) has six MLAs, the Congress and the Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) have two each and the BSP has one member in the Assembly.
The Jharsuguda Assembly constituency in Odisha recorded a polling percentage of 68.12, an EC official said.
Long queues were seen in front of several polling stations even before the voting started at 7 am.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Nikunja Bihari Dhal said there was no report of any untoward incident and the polling was peaceful. More than 2.21 lakh voters were eligible to exercise their franchise in the bypoll.
Dhal said the pace of voting slowed down in the afternoon due to intense heat as a temperature of 42 degrees Celsius was recorded in Jharsuguda at 3 pm. He said drinking water and watermelons were distributed among the voters.
Both Biju Janata Dal (BJD) candidate Deepali Das and BJP nominee Tankadhar Tripathy cast their votes early in the morning.
The bypoll was necessitated following the killing of incumbent MLA and the then Health Minister Naba Kishore Das on January 29.
Though nine candidates were in the fray, the contest was mainly between the BJD, BJP and Congress.
The ruling BJD had fielded Das’s daughter Deepali Das, while the BJP had nominated Tripathy. The Congress had fielded Tarun Pandey, the son of late MLA Biren Pandey. All three candidates are debutant contestants.
A voter turnout of 91.87 per cent was recorded in the Sohiong bypoll in Meghalaya’s East Khasi Hills district, with the polling process largely being peaceful, Chief Electoral Officer F R Kharkongor said.
The official said no law-and-order issue was reported. There were some complaints regarding electronic voting machines (EVMs) at some polling stations and the machines were fixed, he added.
The first five voters were presented with mementoes and first-time voters were felicitated, the official said.
The bypoll was necessitated following the death of UDP candidate HDR Lyngdoh ahead of the February 27 Assembly election.
Six candidates — all men — were in the fray. The nominees were — Synshar Lyngdoh Thabah of the UDP, Samlin Malngiang of the ruling National People’s Party (NPP), S Osborne Kharjana of the Congress, Sandondor Ryntathiang of the HSPDP, Sereph E Kharbuki of the BJP and Stodingstar Thabah of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
A victory in the bypoll will increase the NPP’s tally of seats to 29 in the 60-member Assembly.
The counting of votes for all the bypolls will be taken up on May 13.