Under the shadow of the high voltage Bihar assembly elections, a clutch of 54 assembly seats in around 10 states will go to polls on November 3, with the bypolls to Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh being seen as a mid-term litmus test for the BJP-led governments. The bypolls to the 28 Assembly constituencies in Madhya Pradesh is crucial for the ruling BJP to reach the majority mark in the 230-member House while in Uttar Pradesh, the polls will help gauge the mood of the voters ahead of the 2022 state elections at a time when the Yogi Adityanath government has faced widespread criticism on the issue of law and order — especially crime against women and the recent spate of rapes in the state.
Besides 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh, eight constituencies in Gujarat, seven in UP, two each in Odisha, Nagaland, Karnataka and Jharkhand, and one each in Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Haryana will go to polls on November 3. On November 7, polling will be held for two Assembly seats in Manipur and 1 Lok Sabha seat in Bihar will vote on November 7.
Madhya Pradesh bypolls
The high-stakes battle in Madhya Pradesh, which has seen leaders of the Congress and BJP using highly derogatory and offensive remarks for each other — from “item” to “rakhail” to “bangles”, is an acid test not only for CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan but also for Jyotiraditya Scindia. In fact, out of the 28 seats going to polls, 25 fell vacant after Scindia’s rebellion against the Congress and subsequent resignation of 22 MLAs led to the collapse of the Kamal Nath government in March. In July, three more Congress MLAs deserted the party to join the BJP.
The BJP has 107 MLAs and the Congress has 88 MLAs. In order to return to power in the state, the Congress has to win all 28 seats, while the ruling BJP only needs nine seats to reach the majority mark of 116 in the 230-member House. The BSP is also contesting every seat in the bye-elections.
While Kamal Nath, who has led the Congress campaign in the state, expressed confidence that voters would remove the saffron party from power in the upcoming assembly bypolls, he has faced flak for using the term “item” against BJP’s Dabra candidate Imarti Devi. The Election Commission on Friday revoked Nath’s star campaigner status for “repeated violations of the model code while campaigning for the bypolls”, prompting the Congress leader to knock on the doors of the Supreme Court.
Kamal Nath and Shivraj Singh Chouhan have also been taking personal digs at each other. At one rally, Nath said Chouhan carries with him two coconuts in his pockets, and breaks one while announcing any inauguration. Chouhan also hit back, saying coconuts were auspicious, unlike bottles of champagne.
While the Congress, which has prepared separate manifestos for each of the 28 constituencies, highlighted the worsening of farmers’ condition and increase in unemployment in the state to hit out at the BJP, Chouhan has tried to woo voters by announcing free Covid-19 vaccine to the poor.
On his part, Scindia has alleged that the Nath administration was mired in corruption. “They (Nath and Digvijaya Singh) had turned the state secretariat into a den of corruption by starting a transfer industry with middlemen having a direct access in corridors of power, while peoples representatives were asked to go away (chalo-chalo),” Scindia had said at a rally while campaigning.
Uttar Pradesh bypolls
The Uttar Pradesh bypolls come at a time when the Yogi Adityanath government has been facing Opposition heat over a string of rape incidents in the states, especially the handling of the Hathras case and the hurried cremation of the victim in the middle of the night.
On the other hand, CM Adityanath has campaigned on development projects undertaken by the state and central governments like the Ganga and Purvanchal expressways. The CM has also been talking about central government schemes such as gas connections, and the initiatives taken for migrant workers, etc.
To counter the Opposition attack on crimes against women, Adityanath launched ‘Mission Shakti’ programme in the run up to the polls, with a stern warning to those who perpetrate crimes against women. Recently, at a rally in Jaunpur, he asserted that his government was working to bring a strict law to curb incidents of “love jihad”. “I warn those who conceal identity and play with our sisters’ respect. If you don’t mend your ways your ‘Ram naam satya’ journey will begin,” Adityanath said.
#WATCH Allahabad HC said religious conversion isn’t necessary for marriage. Govt will also work to curb ‘Love-Jihad’, we’ll make a law. I warn those who conceal identity & play with our sisters’ respect, if you don’t mend your ways your ‘Ram naam satya’ journey will begin: UP CM pic.twitter.com/7Ddhz15inS
— ANI UP (@ANINewsUP) October 31, 2020
Among the seats going to polls is Bangarmau, where the vacancy arose because the BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh Sengar was convicted of rape and murder. The other seats going to polls are Deoria, Malhani, Bulandshahr, Naugawan Sadat, Tundla, Ghatampur. The BJP won six of these seven seats in the landslide election of 2017, most of these wins being the first for the party at these seats in over a decade. Besides the BJP and Congress, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), SP, BSP are also in the fray.
Campaigning has been somewhat subdued in the eight seats going to polls in Gujarat — Abdasa, Limbdi, Morbi, Dhari, Gadhada, Karjan, Dang and Kaprada — that were necessitated after the sitting Congress MLAs resigned before the Rajya Sabha elections in June. The BJP has fielded five former Congress MLAs who resigned.
The ruling BJP has harped on the 3,700-crore relief package announced by the state government for farmers who suffered crop loss this monsoon during its campaign. On the other hand, Congress has maintained that party-hoppers would taste defeat in the polls.
However, the BJP seems to be taking the polls seriously, with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah making separate visits to the state recently. On Saturday, PM Modi attended the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas parade in Kevadia to mark the 145th birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and also launched a seaplane service. On the occasion, PM Modi said the “admission” of Pakistan that it was behind the Pulwama terror attack in 2019, exposed “the real face” of the Opposition parties at home.
There are 172 members in the 182-member House, of which 103 are from the BJP, 65 from Congress, two from Bharatiya Tribal Party, one from NCP and one Independent member.
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