After the election commission announced by-election dates on November 14, voting began at 7 am in six states and one union territory today, for four Lok Sabha constituencies and 14 assembly seats.
Polls were underway for Lok Sabha constituencies in Lakhimpur (Assam), Shahdol (Madhya Pradesh), Coochbehar and Tamluk (West Bengal) and by-polls to assembly seats took place in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Tripura and Puducherry.
In Assam, 30% of the electorate had voted by 12 pm for the Lakhimpur parliamentary constituency seat, which was vacated by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal following his election in May. Amidst tight security, voters cast their ballots in 1,954 polling stations spread across the constituencies of Majuli (ST), Naoboicha, Lakhimpur, Dhakuakhana (ST), Dhemaji (ST), Jonai (ST), Chabua, Doomdooma and Sadiya. An assembly seat from Boithalangso was also being contested, though with only 25% of the electorate having voted here till noon, voting was reportedly slow.
In Madhya Pradesh, poll officials said that by 9 am, 15% of the electorate had turned up to vote for the Shahdol parliamentary constituency and the Nepanagar assembly seat. Both these seats are reserved under the Scheduled Tribes category. The Shadol seat was held by the BJP’s Dalpat Singh Paraste, whose death necessitated the poll. The present contestant from the BJP, Gyan Singh, had won the Shahdol seat twice before, in 1996 and 1998.
Voting in Tripura for the assembly seats of Barjala and Khowai began on a peaceful note, with people queuing up since dawn. Nine companies of paramilitary forces, BSF and CRPF were deployed to the two constituencies to ensure security. The Barjala seat had been held by the Congress and the Khowai seat by the CPI-M.
In West Bengal, the turnout was reported to be 36% till 11 am for the parliamentary constituencies for Coochbehar and Tamluk, and the assembly constituency of Monteswar. Though the Congress and CPI-M had contested the assembly elections together in May earlier this year, they decided to contest the by-polls separately. Demonetisation had reportedly become a key issue in the last lap of campaign for the by-polls.
In Tamil Nadu, voting began today in Thanjavur, Aravakkurichi and for by-polls in Thirupparankundram in Tamil Nadu. The contest was mainly between candidates from the AIADMK and the DMK in these constituencies. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had reportedly urged people to vote for her party.
In Puducherry, the assembly seat of Nellithope is being contested. Of the 26 booths for the poll, all were declared sensitive and arrangements were made accordingly. The Nellithope seat had been held by the Congress.
In light of demonetisation, these polls assume significance in that they will reflect what people think of the drastic measure that the Modi government took on November 8 that has made everyday lives difficult for a significant proportion of the population.
Results of the elections are expected to be declared on November 24.
(with PTI inputs)