Voting got underway in the bypolls to the Suar and Chhanbey Assembly constituencies in Uttar Pradesh Wednesday morning.
There is a direct contest between the ruling coalition and the opposition Samajwadi Party in the bypolls. Though the results will have no precipitative impact on the constitution of the assembly, it will be a morale booster for the victor before the Lok Sabha poll next year.
According to officials, voting will be held from 7 am to 6 pm. A total of 774 polling booths have been set up by the Election Commission at 492 polling centres in the two constituencies, while there are 6.62 lakh (3.51 lakh mail, 3.11 lakh female and 82 third gender) eligible voters. A total of 14 candidates are in the fray — six in Suar and eight in Chhanbey.
The Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party has decided to not contest the by-elections, while the Congress has fielded its candidate only in Chhanbey.
With leaders either campaigning in Karnataka or busy with the urban local bodies elections of Uttar Pradesh, the campaign for the two seats in Rampur and Mirzapur districts has been lacklustre.
The Suar seat in Rampur district, however, will be in focus as it was held by Abdullah Azam Khan, the son of senior SP leader Azam Khan, before it was declared vacant on February 13 after a Moradabad court sentenced the young leader to two years in jail in a 15-year-old case.
In the previous assembly also, the Allahabad High Court had in 2020 set aside his election for not declaring his correct age in the affidavit.
The Samajwadi Party is going all out in its attempt to defend what can be called its last citadel in Rampur while the Apna Dal (Sonelal), an ally of the ruling BJP, is leaving no stone unturned to breach it, especially after the saffron party managed to snatch the Rampur assembly as well as the parliamentary seats, both of which were Azam Khan’s stronghold.
Azam Khan himself was disqualified from the Assembly last year after a court sentenced him to three years in jail in a hate speech case.
In the 2022 UP Assembly election, Abdullah Azam Khan had defeated Apna Dal (Sonelal)’s Haidar Ali Khan on the Suar sear by a margin of over 61,000 votes.
This time, the Samajwadi Party has fielded Anuradha Chauhan from the seat and Apna Dal (Sonelal) has named Shafeek Ahmed Ansari.
The Chhanbey seat in Mirzapur fell vacant following the death of Apna Dal (Sonelal) MLA Rahul Prakash Kol in February. The party has fielded Kol’s wife Rinki Kol while Kirti Kol is contesting as the Samajwadi Party candidate. Eight candidates are in the fray for this seat.
The counting of votes will take place on May 13.
In the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly, the ruling BJP has 255 MLAs, and its ally Apna Dal (Sonelal) and the NISHAD Party have 11 and six legislators, respectively.
The Samajwadi Party has 109 MLAs while its ally the Rashtriya Lok Dal has nine. The Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party has six MLAs, the Congress and the Jansatta Dal (Loktantrik) have two each and the Bahujan Samaj Party has one member in the assembly.