Gorakhpur/Patna: Counting of votes for bypolls to three Lok Sabha seats -- Phulpur and Gorakpur in Uttar Pradesh and Araria in Bihar -- began at 8 am on Wednesday.
Byelections in Uttar Pradesh, necessitated after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya vacated their seats in Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituency, respectively, on taking office, are being seen as a prestige battle for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). It will also test the recently formed electoral arrangement between the two arch-rivals -- Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP). The two parties have come together in Phulpur and Gorakhpur for the first time after 1991 to take on the BJP.
Termed by Adityanath a “rehearsal” for the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the byelections are witnessing a triangular contest involving the ruling BJP, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Congress.
In Uttar Pradesh, the BSP is supporting the SP candidates in the two Lok Sabha seats while Congress, which contested the 2017 assembly poll with Samajwadi Party, had fielded its own candidates.
For the BJP, the election is a prestige issue for chief minister Yogi Adityanath who represented the Gorakhpur Lok Sabha seat five times in a row till he took over as chief minister in 2017.
Phulpur, a seat earlier represented by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was won for the first time by the BJP in 2014 when Keshav Prasad Maurya, a former mayor of Varanasi, won the seat with a margin of 3.76 lakh votes.
In Bihar, voting was held for Araria Lok Sabha seat and two assembly segments -- Jehanabad and Bhabua.
In Araria, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Congress is pitted against the BJP-Janata Dal (United) alliance and it’s the first big test for Nitish Kumar after he walked out of the Grand Alliance last year to team up with the BJP.
Bihar bypolls are being seen as a litmus test for Chief Minister Nitish Kumar after he pulled out of the state's Grand Alliance and joined the BJP.