By Akhileshwari Anand Raj
Trinamool Congress’ Gita Rani Bhunia won the by-election held on 21st December in West Bengal’s Sabang Assembly constituency. In the elections held for two other seats in Arunachal Pradesh (Pakke-Kessang) and Uttar Pradesh (Sikandra), Bhartiya Janata Party candidates were victorious.
Background of the elections
By-elections were held this week for five constituencies across the country, including the coveted RK Nagar constituency in Tamil Nadu. Votes for the Sabang constituency were counted and announced on 24th December, and it reported a positive voter turnout at 74.89 percent. Similarly, 53 percent polling was recorded in Sikandra, 51 percent in Likabali and 74.89 percent in Pakke-Kesang.
Electoral voting machines and voter-verified paper audit trail were used for the first time in Arunachal Pradesh, and the State police, Indo-Tibetan Border Police and Central Reserve Police Force were all present in various high-risk booths.
Uttar Pradesh’s Sikandra went to polls as the seat had fallen vacant owing to BJP MLA Mathura Prasad Pal’s demise due to an illness on 22nd July. It was contested by 12 candidates, including prominent Samajwadi Party and Congress candidates. Likabali saw a multi-pronged race, with candidates from the BJP, Congress, People’s Party of Arunachal and independent candidates contesting. The seat had fallen vacant due to the death of the then state health and family welfare minister Jomde Kena.
In Sabang, Trinamool Congress candidate Gita Rani Bhunia contested for the seat that fell vacant after her husband Manas Ranjan Bhunia’s election to the Rajya Sabha. Apart from the BJP and Congress candidates, a candidate from the Communist Party of India also contested for the same seat.
The details and margins
In Pakke-Kessang, the BJP candidate managed a narrow win against the former Deputy Chief Minister Kameng Dolo, who fought on a Congress ticket. The Likabali seat also saw the BJP candidate Kardo Nyigor win by a slender lead of 300 votes over Gumke Riba of the People’s Party of Arunachal. The polling in Likabali had been peaceful for the most part, with only one isolated incident of miscreants damaging an EVM at the Siberty booth. This led to a suspension of polling in the booth.
In Uttar Pradesh, the Sikandra seat was comfortably won by the BJP’s Ajit Pal Singh, who defeated his Samajwadi Party opponent Seema Sachan by over 7000 votes. In Sabang, ever since counting began, the TMC had been riding on a victory wave. Gita Rani Bhunia, the TMC candidate, secured close to 60,000 votes. She went on to win the Sabang constituency by nearly 19,000 votes.
The broader perspective
These seats had fallen vacant due to death of the incumbent, or like in Pakke-Kessang, due to the Gauhati High Court declaring the previous poll results of Kameng Dolo null and void following an election petition filed by BJP nominee and former minister Atum Welly. These elections were held to fill the vacant seats. In West Bengal, this election was a test for former TMC leader Mukul Roy, who had recently changed his loyalties over to the BJP in November this year.
In what was a resounding success, the TMC candidate won by a margin of nearly 19,000 votes, although the BJP vote share went up from 1.3 percent in the previous elections to 19 percent this time. The BJP won the other three seats in Arunachal and Uttar Pradesh, which is yet another indicator of the party’s success across states. It was evident that the Uttar Pradesh seat would go to them, but the narrow wins in Arunachal Pradesh have only added to the BJP’s majority in Arunachal Pradesh, which now stands at 49 out of 60 members in the Assembly.
Implications for India’s future
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was indeed glad about these results, as indicated by his tweets. He thanked the people of Sikandra, Likabali and Pakke Kessang for their support, and expressed his gratitude for the support of the people in West Bengal, given the significant rise in their vote share. These results indicate a stronger BJP government in these states and serve as yet another indicator of the party’s surging popularity.
Featured Image Source: Flickr
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