Polling for bypolls in 51 assembly seats and two Lok Sabha constituencies across 17 states and one union territory began on Monday.

Voting began early in four assembly seats in Punjab and five constituencies in Kerala at 7 am and will continue till 6 pm.

The BJP and its allies had nearly 30 of these assembly seats, while the Congress had won 12 and the rest were with regional parties.

Among the states ruled by the BJP and its allies, the maximum 11 seats will have bypolls in Uttar Pradesh, followed by six in Gujarat, five in Bihar, four in Assam and two each in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

The other states where bypolls will be held are Punjab (4 seats), Kerala (5 seats), Sikkim (3 seats), Rajasthan (two seats) and one seat each in Arunachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Meghalaya and Telangana.

Apart from this, voting for the bypolls are on in the Satara and Samastipur Lok Sabha seats in Maharashtra and Bihar respectively.

However, the schedule for by-elections to 15 assembly seats in Karnataka has been changed with polling now to be held on December 5 and counting of votes on December 9. The decision on the bypolls was taken in view of the Supreme Court observation on the pleas of the rebel MLAs pending in the apex court. Following their disqualification by the then Asembly Speaker, the rebel MLAs had approached the Supreme Court.

The BJP is seemingly at an advantage in the lackluster election campaigns by its political competitors in Uttar Pradesh.

The Samajwadi Party is contesting from all 11 seats across Uttar Pradesh, but its chief – Akhilesh Yadav – held just one election rally in the Rampur assembly constituency ahead of the by-elections. He was campaigning on behalf of party leader Tazeen Fatma after it was left vacant due to her husband, Azam Khan, moving to the Lok Sabha.

The BSP is also contesting all 11 seats on its own but its president Mayawati has not even campaigned for her candidates.

The Congress, which has got a new state party chief in Ajay Kumar Lallu and a new set of office-bearers, is also contesting from all 11 seats. No senior Congress leader has campaigned in the by-elections.

The BJP, on the other hand has campaigned rather vigorously with chief minister Yogi Adityanath leading the campaign. The party has targeted the opposition on national issues such as the abrogation of Article 370.

The polls are seen as a litmus test for the Yogi Adityanath government which has completed 30 months in office.

It is a four-cornered contest with the BJP, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Congress fielding candidates on all 11 assembly seats.

Eight of these seats were held earlier by the BJP and one by BJP ally Apna Dal (Sonelal). The seats of Rampur and Jalalpur (Ambedkarnagar) were held by the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, respectively The Congress is hoping to consolidate its thin majority in Rajasthan by wresting the two seats from the BJP and its ally RLP. Of the 200 assembly seats in Rajasthan, the Congress has 106 MLAs, including the six who defected to the party from the BSP recently The AIADMK and DMK are locked in a keen contest in Vikravandi and Nanguneri Assembly seats in Tami Nadu.

Sikkim Chief Minister Prem Singh Tamang is contesting from Poklok Kamrang constitueny, one of the three seats where bypolls will be held in the state. Tamang aka Golay is the president of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha (SKM), which has tied up with the BJP.

Former Indian football team captain Bhaichung Bhutia is contesting from Gangtok on Hamro Sikkim Party (HSP) ticket.

The bypolls were necessitated after a number of MLAs moved to the Lok Sabha by emerging victorious in the general elections earlier this year.

The results of the elections will be declared on October 24.

(With agency inputs)