Voting will be held on Tuesday for by-elections to 54 assembly constituencies in 10 states including 28 seats in Madhya Pradesh where the Bharatiya Janata Party is locked in a keenly-fought contest with the Congress to save its government.
Extensive arrangements have been made due to the COVID-19 pandemic including personal protective equipment kits for election staff, more polling booths, thermal screening, sanitisers, masks and gloves for voters and markings to ensure social distancing, officials said.
Voting will be held from 7 am to 6 pm, except in Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Nagaland where the timings are different, and the number of people allowed in a polling booth has been restricted.
Voters who are COVID-19 positive will be allowed to vote separately in the last hour, officials said.
Counting of votes will be held on November 10.
All eyes are riveted on Madhya Pradesh where the BJP which has 107 MLAs in the assembly, with an effective strength of 229, needs at least eight more MLAs for a simple majority.
The stakes are high for the Congress too as it had sitting MLAs in 27 seats out of 28 in the state.
Twenty-five of them had resigned early this year and joined the BJP after a rebellion by Jyotiraditya Scindia, leading to the collapse of the Kamal Nath Government.
They are now in the fray as BJP candidates, while in three other seats the by-election was necessitated due to the demise of the sitting legislators.
Overall, the Congress had sitting MLAs in 38 seats out of the 54, while the BJP had eight.
The saffron party is fielding 31 candidates in MP, Gujarat and Karnataka who had won from the Congress ticket but switched sides and resigned, necessitating the byelections in those seats.
In Uttar Pradesh, the BJP, which has a comfortable majority in the assembly, is locked in a battle of prestige on the seven seats, six of which it had won in the last election while one was with the Samajwadi Party.
In Gujarat, the bypolls are being held in eight seats after the Congress MLAs resigned ahead of the Rajya Sabha polls in June this year. Five of them later joined the ruling BJP and are contesting again.
Assembly bypolls will also be held in Chhattisgarh (1 seat), Haryana (1), Jharkhand (2), Karnataka (2), Nagaland (2), Odisha (2) and Telangana (1).
A total of 355 candidates, including 12 state ministers, are contesting in Madhya Pradesh, where bypolls are being held for so many seats in one go for the first time.
In most of the seats, there is a direct fight between the BJP and Congress, while in two or three seats of the Gwalior Chambal region, a triangular contest is on the cards in the wake of the BSP's presence there, political observers said.
Around 33,000 security personnel have been deployed in 19 districts where these constituencies fall. There are a total of 63.67 lakh voters.
BJP and Congress workers clashed on Monday in bypoll-bound Badnawar in Dhar district, leaving six with minor injuries, police said.
As many as 9,361 booths have been set up for people to exercise their franchise and out of these, 3,038 are placed under the 'critical' category.
There are 88 candidates in seven seats in Uttar Pradesh.
The bypolls will also be the first electoral test for the Azad Samaj Party, which evolved from the political movement of the Bhim Army led by Chandrashekhar Azad.
The Azad Samaj Party has fielded Md Yameen as its candidate from Bulandshahr.
The seven assembly seats include Naugaon Sadat, which fell vacant after the death of cabinet minister Chetan Chauhan.
The BJP has fielded his wife Sangeeta Chauhan for the bypolls.
In Ghatampur (Kanpur), the bypolls were necessitated due to the death of sitting MLA and cabinet minister Kamal Rani Varun.
Chetan Chauhan and Kamal Rani Varun had succumbed to COVID-19.
The Bangarmau (Unnao) seat fell vacant following the conviction of Kuldeep Singh Sengar in a rape case.
A total of 81 candidates are there in the eight seats in Gujarat, which collectively have 18.75 lakh voters, state Chief Electoral Officer S Murali Krishna told reporters in Gandhinagar.
The voting process would also be webcast live from 900 polling booths, the official said.
In Karnataka, voting will be held in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in Bengaluru Urban district and Sira in Tumakuru district, where a total of 31 candidates are fighting.
They have 6,78,012 voters including 3,26,114 women.
The death of Sira MLA B Satyanarayana, who was from the Janata Dal-Secular, and the resignation of RR Nagar Congress MLA Munirathna from the assembly, last year, led to the bye-elections.
In RR Nagar, the BJP has fielded former Congress MLA Munirathna whereas the Congress has given ticket to H Kusuma, wife of former IAS officer late D K Ravi in the seat traditionally held by the party.
The JD-S has fielded V Krishnamurthy.
The RR Nagar has become a prestigious issue for both the Congress and the BJP.
The BJP had earlier held this constituency, which Munirathna had wrested as the Congress MLA.
The constituency is part of the Bengaluru Rural Lok Sabha constituency which is represented by D K Suresh, who is the brother of Congress state chief D K Shivakumar.
In Sira, the BJP, the Congress and the JD-S have fielded radiologist Dr Rakesh Gowda, former minister T B Jayachandra and former (JD-S) MLA B Satyanarayana's wife Ammajamma respectively.
The BJP has never won the election from there, but this time, the party is trying to turn the tables on the Congress and the JD-S.
Karnataa chief minister B S Yediyurappa's son and BJP state vice president B Y Vijayendra led the election campaign here.
In Chhattisgarh, voting in Marwahi assembly bypolls, earlier represented by veteran leader Ajit Jogi, would be held with a straight fight between the ruling Congress and the main opposition BJP.
Polling will be held between 8 am and 6 pm and all COVID-19-related guidelines issued by the Election Commission of India will be strictly followed, officials said.
The bypoll for the Scheduled Tribes-reserved constituency was necessitated following the death of sitting Janta Congress Chhattisgarh-Jogi legislator and former chief minister Ajit Jogi on May 29.
The seat will this time see a fight between the Congress and the BJP after the nomination papers of Amit Jogi, the son of Ajit Jogi, and his wife Richa were rejected by the returning officer, who said their caste certificates were invalid.
A total of 1.80 lakh eligible voters will decide the fate of 14 candidates, including wrestler and BJP candidate Yogeshwar Dutt, in the Baroda assembly bypolls in Haryana.
The Baroda seat fell vacant in April after the demise of Congress MLA Shri Krishan Hooda, who had won the seat in 2009, 2014 and 2019 assembly polls."
In Telangana's Dubbak assembly, though over 20 candidates are in the fray, the main contest is among the candidates of the TRS, BJP and the Congress.
The byelection is necessitated by the death of sitting TRS MLA Solipeta Ramalinga Reddy due to health problems in August this year and the TRS has fielded his widow Solipeta Sujatha as its candidate.
Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren's home turf Dumka will see a contest between his younger brother Basant Soren and former cabinet minister Lois Marandi of the BJP.
It is expected to be a straight fight between BJP's Yogeshwar Mahato and Anup Singh of the Congress in Bermo seat in Bokaro district.
In Odisha, the Biju Janata Dal and the BJP are fighting for Tirtol and Balasore seats won by the two parties, respectively, in the 2019 assembly elections.
Altogether eight candidates are in contesting the by-election to two assembly seats in Nagaland -- three from the Southern Angami-1 seat and five from Pungro-Kiphire constituency.
Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party nominee Medo Yhokha, Opposition Naga Peoples Front candidate Kikovi Kirha and Independent candidate Seyievilie Peter Zashumo are contesting from the 14-Southern Angami-I seat.
For Pungro-Kiphire seat, the five candidates are Khaseo Anar of Congress party, BJP nominee Lirimong Sangtam and three Independent candidates - K Shellumthong, T. Yangseo Sangtam and Kiusumew Yimchunger.
The Southern Angami-I seat fell vacant following the demise of Speaker of Nagaland assembly, Vikho-o Yhoshu on December 30, 2019 due to lung cancer.
The Pungro-Kiphire seat was declared vacant following the death of sitting opposition Naga Peoples Front MLA, T. Torechu after prolonged illness.
The voting will be held from 6 am to 4 pm in these seats.