Polling has begun in Rampur and Azamgarh Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, where by-elections are being held on these two constituencies.
Both the seats fell vacant following the resignations of Mohd. Azam Khan and Akhilesh Yadav, both from the Samajwadi Party (SP).
According to Uttar Pradesh Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ajay Kumar Shukla, more than 35 lakh voters are eligible to cast their votes in Azamgarh and Rampur bypolls to decide the fate of 19 candidates.
There are 13 candidates in the fray from Azamgarh where 18.38 lakh voters are eligible to exercise their franchise, while Rampur has six candidates having 17.06 lakh eligible voters.
In Rampur, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded former SP MLC Ghanshyam Singh Lodhi who recently joined the saffron party, while the SP has nominated Asim Raja, a close associate of Azam Khan.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is not contesting from Rampur.
The Azamgarh seat is witnessing a triangular contest between BJP’s Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’, a famous Bhojpuri actor-singer, the SP’s Dharmendra Yadav and the BSP’s Shah Alam, also known as Guddu Jamali.
The BJP is confident of wresting the Azamgarh seat from the SP while the latter is struggling to retain its bastion.
According to officials, 2,176 booths will be set up at 1,149 polling stations of the constituency where an estimated 15 per cent of the residents are Muslim.
All 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, garnering 6.21 lakh votes against BJP’s Dinesh Lal Yadav ‘Nirahua’ who had received 3.61 lakh votes.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and a host of Bhojpuri stars have campaigned for Nirahua.
Akhilesh Yadav and his wife Dimple Yadav did not campaign in the bypolls which raised several questions.
The Rampur constituency, which has almost an equal population of Hindus and Muslims voters, is considered a bastion of the SP leader Azam Khan.
Yadav, Sikhs and Dalit voters are also in a position to influence the outcome of the bypoll on the Rampur seat.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Azam Khan had got 5,59,177 votes, whereas BJP candidate Jaya Prada got 4,49,180 votes and Congress candidate Sanjay Kapoor had lost his deposit.
The Rampur parliamentary constituency consists of Assembly constituencies of Rampur, Suar, Chamraua, Bilaspur and Milak.
In the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, the SP won the Assembly constituencies of Rampur, Suar and Chamraua, while the BJP won Bilaspur and Milak seats.