Lucknow/Patna, Mar 11: In the Lok Sabha by-elections in Uttar Pradesh's Gorakhpur and Phulpur and Bihar's Araria, moderate to low polling was recorded on Sunday. The by elections are being viewed as yet another test for the BJP ahead of the general elections next year.
While 43 per cent of the voters exercised their franchise in Gorakhpur, where UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath cast his ballot, the turnout in Phulpur was lower at 37.39 per cent, the state election office said.
Fifty-seven per cent polling was registered in Araria, Bihar's Chief Electoral Officer Ajay V Nayak said. In the Bhabua and Jehanabad Assembly constituencies in Bihar, where bypolls were also held, the voter turnout was 54.03 per cent and 50.06 per cent respectively, he said. A poll official in UP said there were complaints of electronic voting machine malfunctioning at a few booths, but the EVMs were promptly replaced without affecting the polling.
The reason behind the lower than expected turnout in the high-stakes polls in UP, the country's electorally most significant state with 80 Lok Sabha seats, was said to be a lack of enthusiasm among voters who are now looking forward to the general elections next year.
The bypolls were necessitated after Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated their Lok Sabha seats after getting elected to the state Legislative Council. After casting his vote in Gorakhpur, Adityanath said the BJP was getting widespread support.
"The people know that development is the only panacea," he told reporters.
Termed by Adityanath as a "rehearsal" for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the bypolls witnessed a triangular contest involving the ruling BJP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress. The saffron party has fielded Kaushalendra Singh Patel from Phulpur and Upendra Dutt Shukla from Gorakhpur against the SP's Pravin Nishad and Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel, respectively.
The Congress has nominated Sureetha Kareem for Gorakhpur and Manish Mishra for Phulpur Lok Sabha seat. In Bihar, the ruling JD(U)-BJP combine and the opposition RJD-Congress alliance were locked in a battle in Araria Lok seat and the two Assembly constituencies. This is the first electoral battle in the state since Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who also heads the JD(U), walked out of the alliance with the RJD and the Congress and joined the BJP-led NDA last year.
The polling was by and large peaceful, the Bihar CEO said. The by-election to the Araria seat was necessitated by the death of RJD MP Mohd Taslimuddin. The contest is mainly between RJD's Sarafaraz Alam, Taslimuddin's son, and BJP's Pradip Singh, who had won the seat in 2009 and finished runner-up in 2014.
In Jehanabad, the RJD hopes to retain the Assembly seat that fell vacant after the death of Mundrika Yadav. The party gave ticket to Yadav's son Kumar Krishna Mohan. On the other hand, 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 necessitated the bypoll. The saffron party fielded Pandey's wife Rinky Rani. Counting of votes will take place on March 14.