Over 3.54 lakh voters, including 1.75 lakh women will exercise their franchise in the by-election for Mandar as the constituency votes today.
Polling will start at 7 am and conclude at 4 pm, officials said. The counting of votes will take place on June 26. The seat is likely to witness a triangular contest as the ruling Congress has fielded Shilpa Neha Tirkey as a joint candidate of the mahagatbandhan, opposition BJP is banking on its former MLA, Gangotri Kujur, this year. In the 2019 polls, Kujur was benched by BJP over her “non-performance”. In 2014, she was elected from the seat on a BJP ticket.
BJP rebel candidate Deo Kumar Dhan is contesting the election as Independent candidate supported by All India Majlis-E-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM). AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi has campaigned for Dhan trying to woo the Muslim voters who has a sizeable number.
On the last leg of campaigning, Chief Minister Soren had thrown his hat in the political battle seeking votes in support of Congress candidates. Soren during the campaign raised the Agnipath scheme targeting the NDA government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Though Chief Minister Soren campaigned on the last leg, the Congress campaign, on the other hand, has been spearheaded by four ministers of the state — Rameshwar Oraon, Alamgir Alam, Badal and Banna Gupta — and the party's state unit chief Rajesh Thakur.
From BJP side three former BJP chief ministers — Babulal Marandi, Arjun Munda and Raghubar Das — besides Union minister of state for education Annapurna Devi and the party’s state unit president Deepak Prakash have actively joined the campaign in favour of the BJP candidate. Ajsu chief Sudesh Mahto has also expressed his party’s support for Gangotri Kujur. Sources said that BJP has directed its party cadres to give focus on booth management.
There are 14 candidates in the fray for the Mandar assembly by-election. The by-poll is also a litmus test for both ruling alliance and BJP. If Congress wins the by-poll it will be a victory for the ruling coalition to win all the by-poll elections after the Hemant Soren government comes to power in 2019. However, if BJP wins the election it will give boost to BJP with the saffron party trying to set a referendum that people are unhappy with the ruling alliance government.
The seat is tribal reserved seat with tribal Sarna population around 1.75 lakh, followed by Hindu population with around 74,000. The seat has also sizeable Muslim population as there are 70,000 Muslim. The seat, having several missionaries, has around 30,000 Christian.
Meanwhile, the district administration has made all preparations for the bypoll. Borders of neighbouring districts have been sealed. The district administration has deployed a large number of security personnel for a peaceful election.
Mander election -3: Polling officers leave for poll duty on the eve of Mandar Assembly constituency by-poll at Morhabadi Ground in Ranchi on Wednesday. Pix by Vinay Murmu