Uttar Pradesh bypolls witness a low turnout
The crucial Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha byelections in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday were marked by a poor average turnout of only 40.20%.If Gorakhpur recorded only 43% voting, the figure was even lower in Phulpur at 37.39%, as per Joint Chief Election Officer Ramesh Chandra Rai. It is a drastic fall from 2014 when Gorakhpur recorded 54.67% and Phulpur 50.20%, a dip of over 11% and 12%.In neighbouring Bihar, the turnout was slightly better — 57% in the Araria Lok Sabha constituency and 50.6% and 54.6% respectively in the Jehanabad and Bhabhua Assembly constituencies. The byelections concluded with no incidents of violence, but an FIR was filed against Bihar BJP chief Nityanand Rai for violating the model code of conduct by allegedly making a provocative speech during campaigning on Friday at Narpatganj in Araria. There were also reports of VVPAT machines not working at some booths in Bhabhua.The low voting percentages in U.P. will worry the BJP, which won both the seats in 2014 by margins of over 3,00,000 votes. Additionally, in both constituencies the turnout in the urban centres, considered BJP strongholds, was poor, with Allahabad North barely crossing 21%.The U.P. Chief Election Officer’s office said in a statement that while voting was peaceful, 114 VVPATS, 41 EVM balloting units and 38 EVM control units had to be replaced after “minor technical complaints.” The commission had deployed 4,728 EVM control units, 7,098 ballot units and 4,728 VVPATS for the polls, with the VVPAT facility available at all voting centres.In Bihar, the Narpatganj Assembly constituency’s Nodal Officer-cum-Circle Officer Nishant Kumar on Sunday lodged an FIR against the State BJP chief for violating the model code of conduct after Mr. Rai, also Lok Sabha MP from Ujjiarpur, allegedly said that “if the RJD candidate Sarfaraj Alam wins the poll, Araria would become a hub of ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence].”The Bihar bypolls are being seen as a direct battle between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Opposition leader Tejashwi Yadav. It was the first time Mr. Yadav had led the election campaign of his party in the absence of his father and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad, who is lodged in Ranchi jail after being convicted in the fodder scam cases. For Mr. Kumar, this was the first electoral battle after he dumped the RJD to join hands with the BJP again.The Araria bypoll was necessitated by the death of RJD strongman Mohammad Taslimuddin. The BJP fielded Pradeep Singh, who had won the seat in 2009 and finished runner-up in 2014.The Jehanabad Assembly bypoll was caused by the death of RJD legislator Mundrika Singh Yadav and the party fielded his son Suday Yadav from there. The NDA fielded Abhiram Sharma of the Janata Dal (United), who had won the seat in 2010 when his party was an ally of the BJP. In Bhabhua the bypoll was held after the death of BJP MLA Anand Bhushan Pandey.