Voting is being held for the bypolls to Lok Sabha seats of Phulpur and Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and Araria Lok Sabha seat, Jahanabad and Bhabhua Assembly constituencies in Bihar. The polls are being keenly watched as BJP is facing challenge from the regional alliance of BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh, while Lalu’s RJD is facing test in Araria.
Tight security arrangements have been made in both the states. In UP, nearly 6,500 personnel of central armed para-military forces deployed, apart from Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) and homeguards to ensure peaceful polling in Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats, vacated by Adityanath and deputy chief minister Keshav Prasad Maurya respectively following their election to Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council.
There are 10 candidates in the fray from Gorakhpur, while there are 22 candidates contesting from Phulpur.
BJP has fielded Kaushalendra Singh Patel from Phulpur and Upendra Dutt Shukla from Gorakhpur against SP’s Pravin Nishad and Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel respectively. Sureetha Kareem is the Congress candidate from Gorakhpur and Manish Mishra from Phulpur.
For the BJP, Gorakhpur is significant as it is the bastion of the chief minister, who has represented the seat in the Lok Sabha five times. Prior to Yogi Adityanath, the seat was thrice represented in Parliament by his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath.
Phulpur, once the bastion of the Congress and represented by India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, witnessed a saffron surge in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when Maurya won the seat.
Adityanath has termed the bye-elections a rehearsal for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Meanwhile, in Bihar, seven candidates are in the fray in the Araria parliamentary constituency. Former BJP MP Pradeep Kumar Singh is seeking to regain the seat from the RJD which has fielded Sarfaraz Alam, the death of whose father Mohd Taslimuddin has necessitated the bypoll.
In Jehanabad, the RJD hopes to retain the Assembly seat that fell vacant after the death of Mundrika Yadav. The party has given ticket to Yadav’s son Kumar Krishna Mohan. A total of 14 candidates are in the fray though the contest is mainly between the RJD nominee and JD(U)’s Abhiram Sharma who had won the seat in the 2010 Assembly polls.
The BJP is hopeful of retaining the Bhabhua Assembly seat riding on a sympathy wave for Anand Bhushan Pandey whose death at the age of 48 has necessitated the bypoll.
BJP has fielded Pandey’s wife Rinky Rani and her principal challenger is Congress candidate Shambhu Singh Patel. The total number of candidates in the fray here is 17.
Counting of votes will take place on March 14.