Polling began this morning in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh and Rampur, the Lok Sabha seats considered a stronghold of the Samajwadi Party in the state.
Over 35 lakh people are eligible to vote in the bypolls and will be deciding the fate of 19 candidates.
The by-elections to the Azamgarh seat were necessitated by the resignation of Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, who was elected to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly as an MLA in the elections earlier this year.
The Rampur seat was vacated by senior Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan, who too was elected to the state Assembly.
The polling started at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm, the office of the Chief Electoral Officer said.
According to an official statement issued here by the Election Commission, two general and as many expense observers have been deputed by it to keep an eye on the polls.
Besides, 291 sector magistrates, 40 zonal magistrates and 433 micro-observers have also been deputed, it said.
For ensuring security and peaceful conduct of the polls, adequate number of central and state forces have been deployed. The responsibility for the security of EVMs and strongrooms has been given to central forces.
According to officials, 13 candidates are in the fray from Azamgarh, where 18.38 lakh people are eligible to vote. Six candidates are contesting from Rampur, which has 17.06 lakh voters.
From Rampur, the BJP has fielded Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi, who recently joined the party, while the SP has fielded Asim Raja, handpicked by Khan. The Mayawati-led BSP is not contesting from Rampur.
The Azamgarh seat will see a triangular contest among BJP’s Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirhua’, a famous Bhojpuri actor-singer, SP’s Dharmendra Yadav and BSP’s Shah Alam, also known as Guddu Jamali.
In Azamgarh, of the 18.38 lakh voters, 9,70,249 are men, 8,67,942 women and 36 third gender. Officials said 2,176 booths are set up at 1,149 polling stations of the constituency, where an estimated 15 per cent of the residents are Muslim.
All four assembly constituencies – Azamgarh, Mubarakpur, Sagdi, Gopalpur and Mehnagar – falling in this Lok Sabha seat were won by the SP in the recent assembly elections.
During the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, there was an alliance between the SP and the BSP, and Akhilesh Yadav had won easily, getting 6.21 lakh votes against BJP’s Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’, who had got 3.61 lakh votes.
While central BJP leaders remained absent from campaigning this time, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath sought votes for the BJP candidates on the two seats.
Akhilesh Yadav and his wife Dimple Yadav did not campaign in the bypolls. In the 2019 Lok Sabaha elections, Azam Khan had received 5,59,177 votes, whereas BJP candidate Jaya Prada got 4,49,180 votes and Congress candidate Sanjay Kapoor lost his deposit.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)