Mega bypolls in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar; test for BJP and Nitish

Polling started at 7 am and has been peaceful, election officials said. Although polling was interrupted in Bhabhua constituency due to malfunctioning of Electronic Voting Machine (EVM). Till noon, 31.25 per cent voter turnout has been recorded in Araria; it was 24.5 per cent in Bhabhua and 28.6 per cent in Jehanabad, news agency ANI reported. "There were reports of delays in voting at some booths". 57% polling was registered in Araria, Bihar's chief electoral officer Ajay V. Nayak said. In Bihar bypolls, 38 candidates were in the race for 3 constituencies.

The party has given ticket to Yadav's son Kumar Krishna Mohan.

The bypolls are being watched with much eagerness as this is the first electoral battle in the state since last year's political realignment when Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who also heads the JD (U), walked out of the Grand Alliance and rejoined the BJP-led NDA. He again became the Chief Minister with the support of BJP and Sushil Modi became his deputy. Shahnaz Khatoon, a first-time voter who has just taken her Class XII exam, said after casting her vote at a booth in Raniganj, "Each member of my family voted". Mr Singh had lost to Mohammad Taslimuddin in 2014 Lok Sabha poll. A total of seven candidates are in fray in Araria Lok Sabha seat but main contest is between Sarfaraz Alam of RJD and Pradeep Singh of BJP.

In Araria, ex-MP Taslimuddin's son Md Sarfaraz Alam, who resigned as a JD (U) MLA and joined RJD was pitted against BJP's Pradip Singh.

While campaigning for his party's candidate at a public meeting at Narpatganj on March 9, Rao allegedly said, if the RJD candidate wins this election, Araria will become a safe haven for the ISIS.

The poll was necessitated because of the death of BJP's Anand Bhushan Pandey. Termed by Adityanath as a "rehearsal" for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the bypolls witnessed a triangular contest involving the ruling BJP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress. You can say that this seat is important because it has a sizeable population of Dalit voters, the Congress has put up Shambhu Patel, banking on the popularity of former Lok Sabha speaker and Dalit leader Meira Kumar.

Vanessa Coleman

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