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Assembly bypolls see mixed voter turnout, lowest in Bawana at 45%

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-08-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad: Byelections to four assembly seats in Goa, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday saw a mixed voter turnout.

The byelections are important for the major political parties and some political bigwigs including Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar and his Andhra Pradesh counterpart Chandrababu Naidu.

The high-profile Nandyal seat in Andhra Pradesh witnessed 77.66 % polling till 5 pm but the Andhra Pradesh chief electoral officer Bhanwar Lal said this was expected to rise to 80%.

The two byelections for the Panaji and Valpoi constituencies in Goa witnessed approximately 70% and 79.8% turnout, respectively, according to initial estimates put out byelection agents of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress.

The Bawana constituency in Delhi, where the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is pitted against the BJP and Congress, however, saw a low turnout of 45% till 6 pm.

Parrikar is in a contest against Congress nominee Girish Chodankar and Goa Suraksha Manch candidate Anand Tirodkar in Panaji. In the February 2017 Goa assembly elections, the seat had reported a turnout of 78.85%. Valpoi had reported 89%. A BJP functionary in Goa said the constituency had seen a turnout of 79.8%, according to party polling agents.

“It is substantially less than the previous poll but enough to help us sail through,” the BJP functionary said, requesting anonymity.

A polling agent for Chodankar said the turnout was around 70% in Panaji. “The BJP and Parrikar have brazenly misused the official machinery against Congress workers and polling agents. The state election commissioner has willingly become a tool in the hands of the BJP government and Parrikar,” the agent, who did not want to be named, said.

Parrikar’s cabinet colleague Vishwajit Rane is seeking election from Valpoi. The Congress has fielded Roy Naik, son of Goa Congress leader Ravi Naik, against Rane.

Parrikar was sworn in as chief minister in March and needs to get elected to the assembly within six months. In the February 2017 assembly elections in Goa, BJP nominee Siddharth Kuncalienkar had won the Panaji seat by a slender margin. Kuncalienkar gave up the seat to make way for Parrikar. Rane had won from Valpoi constituency on a Congress ticket but he resigned as an MLA and joined the BJP.

The 45% turnout in Bawana is way lower than the one recorded in the assembly elections held in 2015 when the constituency saw 61.83% polling. According to the Press Trust of India, seven voter verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) devices attached to electronic voting machines showed errors and were replaced. VVPATs were used for the first time in the constituency.

The reserved constituency of Bawana in northwest Delhi is seeing a three-cornered fight between the incumbent AAP, BJP and Congress. The election is key for the AAP, which has been in power in Delhi since 2015 and faced a series of electoral losses in Delhi (municipal corporation elections, Rajouri Garden bypoll) and assembly elections in Goa and Assam.

Elections in Bawana were called after the sitting MLA, Ved Prakash from the AAP, resigned his seat to join the BJP.

In Andhra Pradesh, the fiercely contested Nandyal assembly constituency witnessed a 77.66% turnout.

The byelection went off peacefully, according to CEO Bhanwar Lal. The turnout of 77.66% is higher than the previous two elections in 2009 and 2014.

Addressing a press conference, Lal said that a total of 45 EVMs and VVPAT units had been replaced due to ‘technical’ issues, across 255 polling stations.

The Nandyal seat fell vacant when sitting MLA Bhuma Nagi Reddy died of a cardiac arrest in March. Having won on a YSRCP ticket in the 2014 general elections, he defected to the TDP about a year ago along with his daughter and Allagadda MLA Bhuma Akhila Priya, who is the state minister for culture and tourism at present.

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