New Delhi: By-elections for four Lok Sabha and five Assembly seats in four states went off peacefully today, results, which will be announced on June 5, will be keenly watched in the run-up to the 2014 general elections.
The highest voter turnout of 66 per cent was recorded in Howrah Lok Sabha constituency in West Bengal, followed by around 45 per cent polling in Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat in Bihar.
In Gujarat, the by-polls are being held for two Lok Sabha seats - Porbandar and Banaskantha, and four Assembly seats.
While Porbandar recorded 30 per cent polling, the turnout in Banaskantha was over 36 per cent.
The bye-elections in BJP-ruled Gujarat are being viewed as a litmus test for opposition Congress which had won all the six seats in last elections.
Banaskantha Lok Sabha seat fell vacant after the death of Congress MP Mukesh Gadhvi.
In Porbandar, the elections are being held to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Vitthal Radadiya, who hit the headlines for pulling a gun at a toll booth attendant.
Radadiya had quit Congress in February and crossed over to BJP, which has fielded him for the Lok Sabha by-polls.
In West Bengal, voting was held for Howrah Lok Sabha seat where by-election was necessitated by the death of Trinamool Congress MP Ambika Banerjee.
Being held in the aftermath of the Saradha chit-fund scam, which has defrauded thousands of investors, the election assumes significance as it comes just ahead of panchayat elections in the state.
The seat is witnessing a triangular contest among TMC, Congress and CPI (M) in a field of 13 candidates.
Ruling Trinamool Congress has fielded former India football captain Prasun Banerjee, while Congress has given a chance to lawyer Sanatan Mukherjee and CPI (M) to Sridip Bhattacharjee, a former party district secretary.
BJP is not contesting in Howrah on the instructions of its national president Rajnath Singh. It is seen as a move to keep the door ajar for TMC, a former NDA ally. However, local BJP leader Ranjan Pal is in the fray as an Independent.
Congress and TMC, which have parted ways, had fought the seat jointly in 2009.
CPI (M) is hoping to cash in on the division of votes between TMC and Congress this time.
For Congress, the bye-election is important as a defeat could mean a setback for the party before the panchayat polls as well as next year's Lok Sabha election.
Congress lodged a complaint with the Election Commission alleging that Trinamool Congress workers threatened voters in the presence of micro-observers at some booths in Howrah.
The Election Commission for the first time used GIS-SMS based poll monitoring system, android-based counting application and live monitoring of sensitive areas.
In Bihar, a keen contest was being witnessed in Maharajganj Lok Sabha seat, where ruling JD-U nominee Prashant Kumar Sahi, who is also state education minister, RJD's Prabhunath Singh and Jitendra Swami of Congress are crossing swords to fill the vacancy caused by the death of RJD MP Uma Shankar Singh.
By-polls were also held for four Assembly seats in Gujarat - Dhoraji, Jetpur, Limbadi and Morva Hadaf. The average turnout was 38 per cent in these seats.
In Uttar Pradesh, polling was held to fill the Handia Assembly seat following the death of sitting Samajwadi Party MLA Mahesh Narayan Singh.
SP, which is in power in the state, has fielded Singh's son Prashant apparently to encash sympathy votes.