The stakes are high for major political parties as by-polls are held in West Bengal and Rajasthan on Monday.
In Rajasthan, elections will be held for the Lok Sabha constituencies of Alwar and Ajmer, and the Mandalgarh Assembly seat in the Bhilwara district, which were with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP faces an uphill battle because a miffed Rajput community has announced its support for the Congress in all the three seats.
While an unnerved BJP has been trying to control the anti-incumbency factor, caste equations are set to play a major role in the by-polls. The presence of two Yadav stalwarts as candidates in Alwar and the fielding of Jat and Brahmin candidates in Ajmer and Mandalgarh, respectively, indicate the caste preferences of the two major parties, even though the winners will have only about a year in the seat of power.
Ajmer MP Sanwar Lal Jat collapsed at a meeting in Jaipur and died on August 9, while Alwar MP Mahant Chand Nath died on September 17 following a prolonged illness. The BJP’s Mandalgarh MLA Kirti Kumari died of swine flu on August 28.
Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Pradesh Congress president Sachin Pilot have campaigned extensively in Ajmer in view of the constituency’s role in strengthening their own position within their respective parties
By-polls in Bengal’s Uluberia Lok Sabha and Noapara Assembly constituencies will be held amid heavy security. The Uluberia Lok Sabha seat in Howrah district fell vacant after the death of Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Sultan Ahmed in September last year. The Noapara Assembly seat in North 24 Paraganas fell vacant after the death of Congress MLA Madhusudhan Ghosh in April last year.
The TMC is confident of retaining the Uluberia Lok Sabha seat, which it has been winning since 2009. It also wants to wrest the Noapara Assembly constituency from the Congress. The BJP, however, is confident of increasing its vote share in both seats to keep up its momentum from the Sabang Assembly by-polls, where it increased its vote share by nearly 15% compared to the 2016 Assembly polls.
However, the BJP suffered a major embarrassment recently in Noapara when, soon after the party announced the name of former TMC MLA Manju Basu as its candidate, she denied having any association with the BJP. The party’s candidate Sandip Banerjee claimed that that the incident will have no effect on its electoral prospects.
The Uluberia bypoll is expected to be a litmus test for the BJP as it not only has to face the organisational clout of the ruling TMC but also deal with substantial minority votes in the constituency. The BJP is the only party to have fielded a Hindu candidate in the constituency. In the last Lok Sabha elections in Uluberia, the TMC secured 48.08% votes while the BJP could only get 11.55% vote share. The results will be declared on February 1.