With three Lok Sabha seats and 29 assembly seats up for grabs on Saturday, the results are expected to set the tone for the assembly polls in five states scheduled for early next year and the general elections in 2024. The bypolls in 29 assembly seats spread across 11 states will be a referendum of sorts for the state governments and the BJP government at the Centre. Bypolls are also being held for the Lok Sabha seats of Dadra and Nagar Haveli Union territory, Mandi in Himachal Pradesh and Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. Analysts say the ongoing farmer protests and the issue of price rise are likely to influence the mood of the voters.
Among the 11 states, all eyes are on the bypoll in the Ellenabad constituency in Haryana, which will be a litmus test for the ruling BJP-JJP coalition government led by Manohar Lal Khattar. Haryana, which was at the centre of the farmer protests, is witnessing a three-cornered fight among the Congress, the BJP and the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD).
While INLD’s Abhay Chautala is seeking a mandate for a second time, the Congress has fielded Pawan Beniwal, who was in the BJP until recently, while the BJP-JJP has fielded Govind Kanda. Abhay Chautala, son of former CM Om Prakash Chautala, had resigned from the seat in protest against the three farm laws passed by the Union government in September last year. With farmer leader Rakesh Tikait indirectly extending support to Chautala, the battle will be crucial for the BJP government.
Another state to watch out for is Bihar, where bypolls for the Tarapur (Munger) and Kusheshwar Sthan (Darbhanga) seats are being held following the deaths of two JD(U) MLAs. The results will have wider political implications for the NDA government in Bihar led by CM Nitish Kumar. Analysts say the two seats are in for a high-stakes contest as the ruling coalition has only a wafer-thin majority of four MLAs more than the minimum required to run the government. The NDA has 126 MLAs, while the opposition RJD-led combine has 110 seats in the assembly.
However, the opposition camp is also a divided house with allies RJD and Congress contesting the bypolls separately. Both the parties took jibes at each other in the run-up to the bypolls, each accusing the other of not accommodating its interests. The Congress hopes that the recent entry of former student leader Kanhaiya Kumar into its ranks will boost its prospects in the bypolls.
In states like Assam and Karnataka, the newly inducted BJP CMs are looking to consolidate their positions in these bypolls. If the BJP, which has 59 seats in the 126-member Assam assembly, manages to win all five seats where bypolls are being held in the state, it will be a vindication for CM Himanta Biswa Sarma. However, the opposition parties Congress and AIUDF are also looking to give a tough fight to the BJP in some seats. While two seats fell vacant because of the deaths of the incumbent MLAs, three vacancies were a result of the defection of Congress and AIUDF MLAs to the BJP.
In Karnataka, bypolls to the Sindagi and Hanagal seats will be keenly watched as it will be the first election since Basavaraj Bommai replaced veteran BJP leader B.S. Yediyurappa as CM. The bypoll results are also expected to be a curtain raiser for the 2023 assembly elections in the state.
In Madhya Pradesh, a battle of prestige is on the cards between the ruling BJP and the main opposition party, the Congress, in three assembly seats—Prithvipur, Raigaon and Jobat—and the Khandwa parliamentary seat. The bypolls are crucial for CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is looking to retain his post amid speculation that the central leadership is mulling a change at the helm.
West Bengal is seeing a face-off between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) in the Khardaha, Shantipur, Dinhata and Gosaba seats where bypolls are being held. While TMC is looking for a convincing win in the four seats, the BJP has also pulled out all stops in order to avoid more defeats at the TMC’s hands.
Bypolls in other states such as Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Mizoram and Rajasthan are also perceived to be an indicator of the public mood. The results will be known on November 2.