Campaigning ends for Assembly byelections to be held on July 10 in 13 seats

    Campaigning ended on July 8 for the Assembly byelections to be held on July 10 in 13 constituencies across seven States — Bihar, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

    The bypolls will be keenly watched, specially in Himachal Pradesh, where polling will be held in the three seats of Dehra, Hamirpur, and Nalagarh, vacated by Independent MLAs who joined the BJP. Though the Congress has crossed the majority mark of 35 seats in the Assembly by winning four of the six seats in the bypolls held simultaneously with the recent Lok Sabha election, the BJP is hoping for a windfall in these three.

    In Dehra, Kamlesh Thakur, the Congress candidate and wife of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, is contesting against the BJP’s Hoshiyar Singh, one of the three Independents who was earlier with the Congress but later switched sides.

    Former Union Minister and BJP MP from Hamirpur, Anurag Thakur, led the campaign in the bypolls.

    Barbs and allegations

    The Vikravandi Assembly constituency in Tamil Nadu saw key leaders of the DMK, PMK and the Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK) hit the campaign trail trading barbs, charges and counter-charges.

    The DMK deputed a battery of Ministers, MLAs and MPs to the constituency by dividing work among them from the day the election was notified. To match the DMK show, the PMK too tried its best to engage leaders of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in their campaigning.

    The DMK campaign mainly centred on the implementation of welfare schemes over the last three years while the PMK focused on the failures of the DMK on the law and order front, especially the recent hooch tragedy, and its delay in providing 10.5 % internal reservation for Vanniyars and conducting a caste-wise census in the State.

    In West Bengal, bypolls were necessitated in three of the four seats after the BJP MLAs switched sides to the Trinamool Congress. It remains to be seen whether the BJP is able to retain the Raiganj, Ranaghat Dakshin and Bagda seats.

    The fourth seat – Maniktala – became vacant after the death of the sitting Trinamool MLA Sadhan Pande. His wife Supti Pande, who has been fielded by the Trinamool Congress, said she was fighting to protect the legacy of her late husband.

    In Punjab, the Jalandhar West Assembly seat fell vacant after Sheetal Angural resigned as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislator and joined the BJP. Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann and senior leaders led the campaign in a bid to ensure the AAP nominee’s win, especially after a poor show in the Lok Sabha election.

    In Bihar’s Rupauli seat, Independent MP Rajesh Ranjan, alias Pappu Yadav, announced “full support” to RJD candidate Bima Bharti whom he had defeated in the recent Lok Sabha election. The Rupauli Assembly seat is part of his Purnea Lok Sabha constituency.

    Counting for the bypolls will take place on July 13.

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