KOLKATA, May 27 (PTI): The stage is set for the bypoll to one Lok Sabha and five Assembly seats in as many states in the eastern region on Monday. The five seats where Assembly bypolls will be held are Maheshtala in West Bengal, Gomia and Silli in Jharkhand, Jokihat in Bihar and Ampati in Meghalaya.
The byelection will also be held in the lone Nagaland Lok Sabha seat which was necessitated after the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) leader Neiphiu Rio, now chief minister of Nagaland, resigned as a Lok Sabha member in February. It will be a test of strength between the candidate of the Naga People’s Front (NPF) supported by Congress and the nominee of the ruling People’s Democratic Alliance (PDA).
The PDA, which has the NDPP and the BJP as it major constituents, has fielded former minister Tokheho Yepthomi in the seat. The Congress has extended support to NPF candidate C Apok Jamir. “As our primary concern is to save Nagaland from communal forces, we have agreed in principle to support Apok Jamir. We hope he will live up to the expectations of the party and uphold the principles of secularism and liberal democracy,” Nagaland Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) chief K Therie said. BJP spokesperson K James Vizo said the Congress was levelling charges on the saffron party “out of desperation”.
The bypoll in Mahestala Assembly seat in West Bengal will mainly witness a three-corner contest with the ruling Trinamool Congress, the BJP and the Left Front in the fray. The TMC has fielded Dulal Das, husband of late party MLA Kasturi Das whose death has necessiated the by-poll, while the BJP, which is trying to emerge as the main challenger to the TMC, has nominated Sujit Ghsosh, former joint director of the CBI.
The Left Front, on the other hand, has given ticket to Prabhat Chowdhury, a local. In Jharkhand’s Gomia Assembly seat, though there is a total of 13 candidates, but the main contest is between BJPs Madhavlal Singh, AJSU’s Lambodar Mahto and Jharkhand Mukti Morchas Babita Devi, wife of disqualified MLA Yogendra Mahto.
In Silli, also in Jharkhand, of the total ten candidates, the main contest will be between the former deputy chief minister and AJSU president Sudesh Mahto and Seema Mahto, wife of disqualified MLA Amit Mahto.
The by-poll in both Gomia and Silli Assembly seats were necessitated following the conviction of Yogendra Mahto (Gomia) and Amit Mahto (Silli). Both were elected on JMM tickets in the 2014 Assembly elections. In Bihar, it would be another test of strength between Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) and RJD of Lalu Prasad at Jokihat in Araria district. The by-election to the Jokihat Assembly seat in Bihar has been necessitated due to the resignation of JD(U) MLA Sarfaraz Alam, who quit the party earlier this year and got elected on an RJD ticket to the Lok Sabha from Araria, a seat held by his late father Mohammad Taslimuddin.
While Alam’s younger brother Shahnawaz filed nomination papers as a RJD candidate, the JD(U) has fielded Murshid Alam, a former village Mukhiya who had joined the party a few years ago. Jokihat by-election comes about two months after the RJD succeeded in retaining the Araria Lok Sabha seat, defeating BJP’s Pradip Kumar. The by-election in Meghalaya’s Ampati seat will witness a fight between the Congress and the BJP-backed National Peoples Party. An independent candidate is also in the fray. Former Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma has vacated the Ampati seat which necessitated the by-poll.
The Congress had won 21 seats in February Assembly poll which has now come down to 20 with Sangma vacating the seat. “Winning the Ampati seat could bring about changes in the political scenario in the state as the Congress will become the single largest party”, party general secretary John Kharshiing said. The NPP with 19 MLAs is leading a coalition government with the support of the UDP (6), PDF (4), HSPDP (2), BJP (2), NCP (1) and an Independent.
The Congress has fielded Mukul Sangma’s daughter Miani D Shira as its candidate while Clement G Momin is pitted against her as the candidate of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance.