A handsome turnout of voters on Thursday marked the byelections to 18 Assembly seats in four states — the first major test of strength of the BJP and its allies after their brilliant show in Lok Sabha elections.
Karnataka witnessed 72 per cent polling in three constituencies, followed by Madhya Pradesh (70 per cent in three seats) and Punjab (70 per cent in two seats). However, a paltry 46.42 per cent polling in Bihar left the “grand alliance” of RJD-JD(U)-Congress and the NDA worried as low turnout did not give any hint to either of the alliances to gauge the mood of the public.
In Bihar, the exercise was as a key trial of strength for the BJP, which had won six out of the 10 seats in 2010 Assembly elections as for the “Mandal” politics of Lalu Prasad-Nitish Kumar combine seeking to stage a comeback in the state after their decimation in general elections.
Narkatiaganj (West Champaran) recorded highest 58 per cent polling, while Bhagalpur recorded lowest poll with only 37 per cent voter turnout.
Interestingly, both seats are known as traditional BJP bastions. Chhapra, battle of prestige between Lalu Prasad and BJP, recorded only 47.4 per cent poll despite high-pitched campaign from both sides. The poll results would be out on 25 August and though the result would have no bearing on the continuity of the JD(U) government, it might well impact the future of the grand-alliance.
In Karnataka, there has been a close battle between BJP and the ruling Congress in the three Assembly constituencies Chikkodi-Sadalga (81.30 per cent turnout), Bellary Rural (68.9 per cent) and Shikaripura (65 per cent).
In Punjab, an estimated 60 per cent polling was recorded in Patiala constituency, where former Union minister Preneet Kaur (Congress) is in fray, and 82.34 per cent in Talwandi Sabo. However, there were reports of widespread booth capturing in both the constituencies.
More than 70 per cent of the electorate exercised their franchise in the three bypolls in MP.