Ajmer to Gorakhpur: Check out the key electoral battles ahead

People stand in queue to cast their vote in Agra. (Photo: PTI)
Assembly polls in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh are slated for this year-end. By March, Tripura and Meghalaya vote to elect their respective assemblies. It will be the turn of Karnataka by May. Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Mizoram go to polls at the end of 2018.

These elections are likely to indicate the mood of the nation in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

But there are also interesting by-elections slated on seven Lok Sabha seats that have fallen vacant in the last few months. Usually, bypolls are won by the government in power in the respective states. But there have also been politics defining bypolls in the history of Indian democracy – the Jabalpur Lok Sabha bypoll in 1974 gave an inkling to the verdict of 1977, while the 1988 Allahabad bypoll proved to be a precursor to the change in 1989 at the Centre.

Ajmer (Rajasthan)

The seat has fallen vacant after BJP MP Sanwar Lal Jat passed away in August. In 2014, Jat had defeated current Congress state unit chief Sachin Pilot.

Many in the Congress, as also other Opposition parties, are keen that Pilot should contest. He had represented the seat in 2009. A defeat here could prove ominous for the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government in the assembly polls in the state in end-2018.

Alwar (Rajasthan)

The seat has fallen vacant after the passing away of BJP’s Chand Nath Yogi. In 2014, he had defeated Congress candidate Jitender Singh. The latter, who hails from a royal family, had won the seat in 2009 and was a minister in the UPA 2 government.

Along with Ajmer, this seat would also test the popularity of the Vasundhara Raje government in the state.

The two bypolls would come on the heels of sustained farmer protests in Rajasthan, particularly in the Shekhawati region.

The dates for bypolls in Ajmer and Alwar are yet to be announced.

Phulpur (Uttar Pradesh)

It neighbours the Allahabad Lok Sabha seat. Phulpur’s claim to fame is that it sent Jawaharlal Nehru to the Lok Sabha in 1952, 1957 and 1962, and thereafter his sister Vijayalakshmi Pandit in 1964 (bypoll) and 1967.

In 1962, Socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia had unsuccessfully challenged Nehru on the seat. It sent VP Singh to the Lok Sabha in 1971, and Kamala Bahuguna in 1977. Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) founder Kanshi Ram contested from the seat in 1996.

Bypoll is due with sitting BJP MP Keshav Prasad Maurya quitting his Lok Sabha seat since he is now a deputy chief minister in the Yogi Adityanath-led BJP government in Lucknow.

There has been speculation that BSP chief Mayawati might contest as the joint opposition candidate. She had quit her Rajya Sabha seat in July. However, ‘Behenji’ has given no such indications in her recent public rallies. The BSP generally doesn’t contest bypolls.

If she does, the election could be a redux of the 1988 bypoll where VP Singh won as the common Opposition candidate, a victory that indicated the 1989 Lok Sabha result where Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress was ousted from power.

The BJP believes Mayawati won’t risk her reputation. The Samajwadi Party might contest the seat, with the Congress supporting its candidate.

Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh)

The seat has fallen vacant since sitting MP Yogi Adityanath has had to quit as he is now the UP chief minister. Adityanath, the head of the Gorakhnath temple, has won the seat since 1998. His guru Mahant Avedyanath had represented the seat four times since 1970. Mahant Digvijayanath, Avedyanath’s guru, won the seat in 1967. It would be a matter of prestige for Adityanath to ensure BJP’s win.

Gurdaspur (Punjab)

The seat fell vacant after actor and former union minister Vinod Khanna passed away in April. Khanna represented the seat for the BJP in 1998, 1999, 2004 and 2014. In 2009, Khanna lost the seat by a little over 8,000 votes, or less than one percent of the total valid votes cast, to the Congress candidate Pratap Singh Bajwa.

The bypoll is scheduled for 11 October. The BJP has fielded Swaran Singh Salaria and Congress candidate is Sunil Jakhar. After its emphatic victory in the recent assembly polls, the Congress hopes to wrest the seat from the BJP.

Uluberia (Howrah district, West Bengal)

Sitting MP Sultan Ahmed passed away earlier this month. He was a two time MP from Uluberia. Trinamool Congress’s Ahmed had defeated eight-time MP Hannan Mollah of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in 2009. Mollah had represented the seat continuously since 1980. Mollah didn’t contest the 2014 poll, and currently heads the All India Kisan Sabha that is leading farmer protests across the country. The bypoll date is yet to be announced but the Trinamool, after its recent sweep in civic polls in the state, would expect to retain the seat.

Araria (Bihar)

This promises to be an interesting battle after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has parted ways with Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad.

The seat has fallen vacant after sitting MP and senior RJD leader Mohammed Taslimuddin passed away earlier this month. In 2014, it was one of the four seats that RJD had won in the state in a three cornered contest between itself, Kumar-led Janata Dal (United) and BJP. The BJP candidate had come in second, while JD (U) candidate was number three.

In the 2015 assembly polls, the ‘grand alliance’ of RJD-JD (U)-Congress had won five of the six assembly constituencies in the Araria Lok Sabha seat. The JD (U) had worn three, RJD, Congress and BJP had won a seat each.

The bypoll would not only test whether BJP would be willing to let Kumar-led JD (U) to contest the seat, but also reports of RJD’s increasing popularity. During its earlier alliance with the JD (U), the seat was contested by the BJP.

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