NEW DELHI: Bypolls for three Lok Sabha and seven assembly seats spread across five states and one union territory were underway on Thursday, with Tripura Chief Minister Manik Saha among the prominent candidates in the fray.
Counting of votes for the bypolls in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand will be taken up on Sunday.
In the bypoll for Punjab's Sangrur Lok Sabha seat, all eyes are on the AAP which is facing its first test of popularity after its impressive performance in the assembly elections.
The bypolls come at a time when the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is facing Opposition heat over the law and order issue and the killing of Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala.
The main opposition Congress has fielded former Dhuri MLA Dalvir Singh Goldy in the bypoll while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made former Barnala MLA Kewal Dhillon its candidate, who joined the saffron party on June 4.
Kamaldeep Kaur, the sister of Balwant Singh Rajoana, a convict in former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh's assassination case, has been fielded by the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD). Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar) chief Simranjit Singh Mann is also in the fray.
The Sangrur Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after Bhagwant Mann resigned as MP after winning Dhuri seat in the February 20 Assembly polls.
Uttar Pradesh is witnessing bypolls in Azamgarh and Rampur, the two Lok Sabha seats considered as the bastions of the Opposition Samajwadi Party.
An average of over eight per cent votes were polled in the first two hours of polling in Uttar Pradesh.
The bypolls to the Azamgarh seat were necessitated by the resignation of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav, who was elected to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly as an MLA in the elections earlier this year.
The Rampur seat was vacated by senior SP leader Azam Khan, who too was elected to the state Assembly. From Rampur, the BJP has fielded Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, who recently joined the party, while the SP has fielded Asim Raja, handpicked by Khan.
The Mayawati-led BSP is not contesting from Rampur. The Azamgarh seat is seeing a triangular contest among BJP's Dinesh Lal Yadav 'Nirhua', a famous Bhojpuri actor-singer, SP's Dharmendra Yadav and BSP's Shah Alam, also known as Guddu Jamali.
All four assembly constituencies--Azamgarh, Mubarakpur, Sagdi, Gopalpur and Mehnagar--falling in this Lok Sabha seat were won by the SP in the recent assembly elections.
Tripura is witnessing bypolls to four assembly seats of Agartala, Town Bardowali, Surma and Jubarajnagar seats.
The bypolls in Agartala and Town Bardowali constituencies were necessitated after Sudip Roy Barman and Asish Saha quit as BJP MLAs and joined the Congress in February.
The Surma seat in Dhalai district fell vacant after BJP legislator, Asish Das, was disqualified by Speaker Ratan Chakraborty and bypoll to Jubarajnagar was necessitated following the death to sitting CPI(M) MLA Ramendra Chandra Debnath.
Chief Minister Saha, who is not a member of the assembly, is contesting from Town Bardowali constituency against Congress nominee Asish Saha. Trinamool Congress and Left Front have fielded candidates in all the four seats.
In Andhra Pradesh, nearly 12 per cent voting was recorded in the first two hours of voting in the bypoll to the Atmakuru Assembly seat. The bypoll is being held to fill the vacancy caused due to the death of then Industries Minister Mekapati Goutham Reddy in February.
His brother Vikram Reddy is the ruling YSR Congress candidate and he is locked in a contest with BJP's G Bharat Kumar Yadav.
In Delhi, the voting is being held for the Rajinder Nagar seat.
The two major contenders -- the AAP and the BJP -- have exuded confidence that their candidates will emerge victorious in the bypoll with a huge margin.
Six companies of CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces) personnel have been deployed for security arrangements during the bypoll necessitated in the wake of AAP leader Raghav Chadha leaving the seat after being elected to the Rajya Sabha recently.
Chadha was the MLA from the Rajinder Nagar Assembly seat.
While the AAP has exuded confidence that it will register a "record victory" in the bypoll and hand out a crushing defeat to the BJP, the saffron party is hopeful of westing the seat from the ruling party that had bagged 62 of the 70 seats in the 2020 Delhi polls.
According to the residents of the area, the AAP government's liquor policy and water shortage are among the main issues in the bypoll.
In Jharkhand, bypoll to Mandar assembly seat began amid tight security arrangements.
Voting is taking place in 433 polling stations, with 141 booths having been declared hyper-sensitive, 218 as sensitive, and 55 as vulnerable.
The by-election was necessitated after the disqualification of Bandhu Tirkey as an MLA in the wake of his conviction in a corruption case.
The Congress has fielded Bandhu's daughter, Shilpa Neha Tirkey, as the common candidate of the JMM-led alliance, while BJP has nominated former legislator Gangotri Kujur from the seat.
An independent candidate Dev Kumar Dhan, with backing from Asaduddin Owaisi's All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), is also in the fray.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)