Amid tight security arrangements, polling for the by-elections to Gorakhpur and Phulpur Lok Sabha seats in Uttar Pradesh commenced on Sunday morning at 7 am.
The polling will continue till 5 pm and the counting of votes will be taken up on March 14. Reports say that huge rush of voters was witnessed at several polling booths in the Urban areas where voters queued up after their morning walk. Election Commission sources here said that voting commenced on a peaceful note in both the constituencies though there were reports that in some booths Electronic Voting Machines did not work and they had to be replaced.
Around 65 companies of Central Forces -- 33 to Gorakhpur and 32 to Phulpur -- have been deployed for free and fair polls. Besides the central forces, over 11,000 state police have been deployed too in Phulpur and 10,000 in Gorakhpur. In both the by-elections, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) would be equipped with VVPAT where the voters can see for whom they have voted while Electronically Transmitted Postal Ballot System will be used to dispatch postal ballots to eligible service voters in the constituencies.
According to the Election Commission, 19.61 lakh electorate in Phulpur Lok Sabha constituency is expected to exercise their franchise at 2,059 polling booths, while 19.49 lakh electorate in Gorakhpur Lok Sabha constituency is expected to cast vote at 2,141 polling booths. There are ten candidates in the fray from Gorakhpur, while 22 candidates are contesting from Phulpur.
The by-polls were necessitated after Uttar Pradesh Chief MinisterYogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated the Gorakhpur and Phulpur seats respectively, following their election to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council in September last year. Hectic campaigning was done by Congress and BJP while BSP joined hands with the SP for the polls.
The by-elections are expected to witness a triangular contest between the ruling BJP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress.The elections will be seen as a referendum for Adityanath, as he himself has been a five-time MP from the temple town of Gorakhpur. BJP has a stronghold on the seat where it has won since 1989. However, the tragedy in Gorakhpur's Baba Raghav Das Medical College last year where over 70 infants died due to lack of oxygen may have an impact on the results.
For the BJP, Gorakhpur is significant as it is the bastion of the Chief Minister, who has represented the seat in the Lok Sabha five times. Prior to Adityanath, the seat was thrice represented in Parliament by his mentor Yogi Avaidyanath. On the other hand, Phulpur, once the bastion of the Congress and represented by country's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, witnessed a saffron surge in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, when Maurya won the seat.
The BJP has fielded Kaushalendra Singh Patel from Phulpur and Upendra Dutt Shukla from Gorakhpur against the SP's Pravin Nishad and Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel respectively. Sureetha Kareem is the Congress candidate from Gorakhpur. The party has fielded Manish Mishra from Phulpur. "The lotus (BJP's poll symbol) will bloom in both the seats. I have no doubt. The very fact that people are talking mostly about BJP's victory margin is itself an indicator that the party is going to win. You can rest assured that we are going to improve our margin in both the seats," Deputy Chief Minister Maurya said.
The ruling BJP did not only win both the seats in the 2014 general election but also swept the state Assembly polls last year. However, this time, the party faces a new challenge as the SP contestants have the backing of BSP. (UNI)