13 assembly seats in 7 states go to bypolls today

13 assembly seats in 7 states go to bypolls today

New Delhi: The electoral exercise, the first since the Lok Sabha elections, will decide the fate of many veterans and some debutantes including Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu's wife Kamlesh Thakur.

The assembly seats going to polls are Raiganj, Ranaghat Dakshin, Bagda and Maniktala (West Bengal); Badrinath and Manglaur (Uttarakhand); Jalandhar West (Punjab); Dehra, Hamirpur and Nalagarh (Himachal Pradesh); Rupauli (Bihar); Vikravandi (Tamil Nadu) and Amarwara (Madhya Pradesh).

The bypolls are to be held against vacancies created either due to deaths or resignation of incumbent members.

In West Bengal, the stakes are high for both the ruling Trinamool Congress, which is looking to capitalise on its improved performance in the Lok Sabha polls, and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is seeking to leverage the significant leads it made in the four constituencies in the parliamentary polls.

The TMC won Maniktala seat in the 2021 West Bengal elections while the BJP won Raiganj, Ranaghat Dakshin and Bagda.

Later, the BJP MLAs switched to the TMC.

The Maniktala bypoll was necessitated by the death of sitting TMC MLA Sadhan Pandey in February 2022.

The TMC has fielded Pandey's wife Supti from the seat. The ruling party has fielded Krishna Kalyani from Raiganj and Mukut Mani Adhikari from Ranaghat Dakshin.

In Badgah, a Matua-majority constituency, the TMC has fielded Madhuparna Thakur, a member of the Matua Thakurbari and daughter of party Rajya Sabha MP Mamatabala Thakur.

Kalyani, Adhikari and Biswajit Das had unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha polls on TMC tickets after resigning from the BJP.

The BJP has fielded All India Football Federation president Kalyan Chaubey from Maniktala, Manoj Kumar Biswas from Ranaghat Dakshin, Binay Kumar Biswas from Bagdah and Manas Kumar Ghosh from Raiganj.

Buoyed by its Lok Sabha poll performance, the TMC hopes to win all four assembly seats.

"We are confident of winning all four assembly seats. The people of Bengal have rejected the BJP in the last Lok Sabha polls," said TMC leader Kunal Ghosh.

The TMC won 29 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in West Bengal, up from 22 in the 2019 parliamentary polls. On the other hand, the BJP's tally came down to 12 from 18 in 2019.

In Himachal Pradesh, bypolls will be held for three assembly constituencies -- Dehra, Hamirpur and Nalagarh.

The seats fell vacant after the three independent legislators Hoshiyar Singh (Dehra), Ashish Sharma (Hamirpur) and K L Thakur (Nalagarh), who had voted in favour of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha polls held on February 27, resigned from the House on March 22.

The BJP has fielded the three former Independent MLAs from their respective seats after they joined the party. A total of 13 candidates are contesting the bypolls in the three segments with 2,59,340 voters.

The Congress' pick in Dehra is Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu's wife Kamlesh Thakur. She will take on BJP's Hoshiyar Singh, one of the nine MLAs who had voted against the Congress candidate in the Rajya Sabha polls.

"Vote for the CM and not the MLA. Now, Dehra will also become the constituency of the CM," Kamlesh Thakur told people while canvassing implying that voting for her meant voting for the CM and hence 'development'.

"I will not need to go to the Secretariat to get your work done, I will get it done from the chief minister at home," she said.

In Hamirpur, the home district of Sukhu, former Independent MLA Ashish Sharma is pitted against Congress' Puspender Verma.

Former Independent legislator K L Thakur is facing old rival Hardeep Singh Bawa of the Congress in Nalagarh. The entry of BJP dissident Harpreet Saini, who is contesting as an Independent, has made the contest triangular.

The BJP got a lead in all three assembly constituencies during the recently held Lok Sabha polls.

Neighbouring Uttarakhand's Manglaur constituency will also witness a three-cornered fight.

The bypoll was necessitated by the death of sitting Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Sarwat Karim Ansari in October last year.

The BJP has never won the Muslim and Dalit-dominated Manglaur seat which has been held either by the Congress or the BSP in the past.

This time, the BSP has fielded Ansari's son Ubedur Rehman against Congress nominee Qazi Mohammad Nizamuddin. Gujjar leader and BJP nominee Kartar Singh Bhadana is also in the fray.

Polling will also be held for the Badrinath assembly bypoll. The seat fell vacant after sitting Congress MLA Rajendra Bhandari resigned and switched to the BJP in March this year.

Badrinath will witness a direct fight between BJP's Rajendra Bhandari and Congress newcomer Lakhpat Singh Butola.

Traditionally, the party in power in the state has an edge over its rivals in bypolls. Of the 15 bypolls held in Uttarakhand since its creation, 14 were won by the party in power.

In Punjab, the bypoll to the Jalandhar West assembly segment is being seen as a litmus test for Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, who has pulled out all the stops to register a win after the party's drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls.

The seat, which fell vacant after Sheetal Angural resigned as AAP legislator, is witnessing a multi-cornered fight.

Fifteen candidates are in the fray for the by-election while there are a total of 1.72 lakh voters who are eligible to cast their votes.

The ruling Aam Aadmi Party has fielded Mohinder Bhagat, the son of former minister and former BJP MLA Bhagat Chunni Lal. Bhagat had joined the AAP after quitting the BJP last year.

The Congress has placed its bet on Surinder Kaur, who is the former senior deputy mayor and five-time municipal councillor in Jalandhar. She is a prominent Dalit leader of the Ravidassia community.

The BJP has fielded Angural, who switched sides in March after quitting the AAP. He had won this seat in the 2022 Punjab assembly polls on an AAP ticket.

Winning the bypoll is important for Mann as his party faced a drubbing in the recently concluded Lok Sabha polls, winning only three of the 13 seats.

Mann led the AAP's campaign for the bypoll and canvassed for Bhagat by holding public meetings and roadshows. He rented a house in Jalandhar and moved there along with his family and had said he would keep the house even after the bypoll.

Prestige is also at stake for the BJP which also wants to emerge victorious in the Jalandhar West seat after drawing a blank in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

The counting of votes for the bypolls will be held on July 13.