Guwahati/Shillong/Aizawl, Oct 29 : The stage is set for bypolls to nine assembly seats in three northeastern states — Assam, Meghalaya and Mizoram, with both the BJP led-NDA and the main opposition Congress optimistic of their chances.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress are the main contenders for the five assembly seats in Assam while the ruling National People’s Party (NPP) and the Mizo National Front (MNF), both part of the National Democratic Alliance, would take on the Congress in three seats in Meghalaya and the lone seat in Mizoram, respectively.
Political pundits are saying that the Saturday’s by-elections are the acid test for both national parties and the opposition parties as well while the local parties, which have fielded candidates in all the nine seats, might divide the vote share of the main challengers.
A by-election was also due in Nagaland’s Shamator-Chessore Assembly seat, but ruling Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) candidate S. Keoshu Yimchunger, who was the consensus nominee of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), an all-party coalition formed on September 18 to run an opposition-less government in the northeastern state, has been elected unopposed as he was the lone nominee in the tribal reserved seat.
The NDPP led by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio is also an ally of the NDA.
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, former Chief Minister and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Congress national General Secretary Jitendra Singh, state Congress President Bhupen Kumar Borah and leader of Opposition in the Assembly Debabrata Saikia, who undertook hectic campaign for their respective candidates, were strongly hopeful of securing win in the by-polls.
The BJP has fielded candidates in three seats and all the three are turncoats – Congress’s Rupjyoti Kurmi in Mariani and Sushanta Borgohain in Thowra, and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) – Phanidhar Talukdar in Bhabanipur.
The BJP’s ally United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) has nominated Jiron Basumatary in Gossaigaon, and Jolen Daimary in Tamulpur.
The Congress, which fielded candidates in all the five seats, has been trying hard at least to retain Thowra and Mariani.
The AIUDF has fielded candidates in Bhabanipur and Gossaigaon, Akhil Gogoi-led Raijor Dal is contesting in Thowra and Mariani while Hagrama Mahilary-led Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) is contesting in Gossaigaon.
The AIUDF and the BPF were partners of the Congress-led 10-party ‘Mahajot’ (grand alliance) in the March-April Assembly polls.
According to the Election Commission, around 8 lakh voters, including 3,93,078 female would decide the fate of 31 candidates.
The by-elections were necessitated due to the Covid-related deaths of two sitting MLAs belonging to UPPL and BPF while two Congress (Kurmi and Borgohain) and one AIUDF legislator (Talukdar) joined the BJP after quitting their Assembly membership.
In Meghalaya, the National People’s Party (NPP) headed by Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma and the Congress fielded candidates in all the three seats, the BJP, which is a constituent of the NPP-dominated Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), has fielded candidate in Rajabala.
Another MDA partner, the United Democratic Party (UDP) also fielded candidate in Mawphlang, causing possible division of votes among the ruling partners and offering electoral benefit to the “divided” Congress.
The UDP is supporting the NPP candidate in other seats.
The Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), another partner of the MDA, is supporting the UDP candidates in Mawphlang and Rajabala.
In all, 13 candidates, including nominees of the local parties, have entered the fray to contest the by-elections.
Five candidates each are contesting from Mawryngkneng and Rajabala, while three aspirants are in the race in Mawphlang.
Traditionally a matrilineal society, Meghalaya sees women voters in Meghalaya outnumbered their male counterparts. Election officials said that of the total 1,02,695 electorate in the three Assembly seats, 53,106 are female voters.
The by-polls to the three Assembly seats were necessitated following the deaths of three sitting MLAs — David A Nongrum (Congress, Mawryngkneng), Azad Zaman (UDP, Rajabala) and Syntar Klas Sunn (Independent, Mawphlang).
In Mizoram, the bypoll to the Tuirial was necessitated following the death of sitting Zoram People’s Movement (ZPM) legislator Andrew H. Thangliana.
According to Mizoram’s Joint Chief Electoral Officer David L. Pachuau, 18,582 voters, including 9,095 women, are eligible to exercise their franchise.
There are four candidates in the fray – K. Laldawngliana of the ruling Mizo National Front, Laltlanmawia of the ZPM, Chalrosanga Ralte of the Congress and the BJP’s K. Laldinthara.
The counting of votes in all seats will take place on November 2.