Voting for byelections to four Lok Sabha seats in three states, including the politically-crucial Kairana in Uttar Pradesh, and 10 Assembly constituencies in nine states began on Monday morning. The bypolls cannot be construed as providing a decisive indicator of the political mood in the country, but they are being keenly watched as they coincide with the fourth anniversary of the ascent of Narendra Modi as prime minister.
Besides Kairana in western Uttar Pradesh, by-election is held in Bhandara-Gondiya and Palghar parliamentary constituencies in Maharashtra, and Nagaland Lok Sabha seat.
The Kairana bypoll will see a joint opposition taking on the ruling BJP. The constituency fell vacant after the death of BJP MP Hukum Singh, whose daughter Mriganka Singh is now the party's candidate for the bypoll. She is fighting Rashtriya Lok Dal's (RLD) Tabassum Hasan, who is supported by the Congress, Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
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 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.
All four major parties in Maharashtra —the Congress, BJP , Shiv Sena and the NCP—have pulled out all stops for the Lok Sabha bypolls 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, Chief Electoral Officer Abhijit Sinha said that all arrangements had been made for the peaceful conduct of the bypoll to the lone Lok Sabha seat in the northeastern state.
The by-poll is a straight contest between ruling Peoples Democratic Alliance (PDA) candidate Tokheho Yepthomi and opposition NPF nominee C. Apok Jamir.
The Lok Sabha bypoll was necessitated following the resignation of Neiphiu Rio from the Lok Sabha to contest the Nagaland Assembly election in February. Rio is presently the chief minister of the state.
The assembly bypolls 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).
The counting of votes will take place on May 31.