Victory in Saturday's byelections in nine seats in three northeastern states - Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram - could offer an edge to the main rival contestants - the BJP and its NDA allies, and the Congress, ahead of upcoming elections in the region.
The outcome of the by-elections, due on November 2, hold significance as BJP-ruled Manipur is going to the polls early next year, though Meghalaya and Mizoram, governed by the National People's Party (NPP) and the Mizo National Front (MNF), respectively, would only see polls in 2023.
Both the NPP and the MNF are constituents of the National Democratic Alliance.
Another NDA ally in Nagaland -- the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) headed by Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio -- won the lone Assembly seat -- Shamator-Chessore -- unopposed.
Political commentator and writer Sushanta Talukdar said: "Both BJP and the Congress have high stakes in Assam and the outcome of the bypolls are likely to influence the upcoming assembly polls in the neighbouring states."
"The BJP in alliance with its junior partners are already running governments in Assam, Tripura, Manipur, and Arunachal Pradesh. The allies of the saffron party running government in the remaining four northeastern states.
"All the eight northeastern states earlier dominated by the Congress and the non-BJP parties but the BJP now becoming a major force in the region," Talukdar, the editor of multilingual online portal 'nezine', told IANS.
Politics watchers say that the Saturday's by-elections were the acid test for both ruling and the opposition parties as well the local parties, which have fielded candidates in all the nine seats, and might divide the vote share of the main challengers -- BJP and Congress.
Political commentator and academician Apurba Kumar Dey said that there are many anti-incumbency factors against both the BJP-led Assam government and the NPP-dominated Meghalaya government.
"The outcome of the Saturday's byelections would make clear how much the main opposition Congress capitalises these vital factors," Dey told IANS.
The BJP has fielded candidates in three of the five Assam assembly seats and all the three are turncoats - Congress's Rupjyoti Kurmi in Mariani and Sushanta Borgohain in Thowra, and All India United Democratic Front's (AIUDF) Phanidhar Talukdar in Bhabanipur. Ally UPPL is contesting the other two.
The Congress, which fielded candidates in all the five seats, has been trying hard at least to retain Thowra and Mariani seats, which it won in the last polls.
The AIUDF had fielded candidates in Bhabanipur and Gossaigaon, Akhil Gogoi-led Raijor Dal was contesting in Thowra and Mariani, and the Hagrama Mahilary-led Bodoland People's Front (BPF) in Gossaigaon.
The AIUDF and the BPF were members of the Congress-led 10-party 'Mahajot' (grand alliance) in the March-April Assembly polls.
The by-elections were necessitated due to the Covid-related deaths of two sitting MLAs belonging to the UPPL and the BPF while two Congress and the AIUDF legislator joined the BJP after quitting their Assembly membership.
In Meghalaya, the NPP, headed by Chief Minister Conrad K. Sangma, and the Congress fielded candidates in all the three seats, while the BJP, which is a constituent of the NPP-dominated Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA), fielded a candidate in Rajabala.
Another MDA partner, the United Democratic Party also fielded candidate in Mawphlang, causing possible division of votes among the ruling partners and some benefit to the Congress.
The bypolls were necessitated following the deaths of three sitting MLAs -- David A Nongrum (Congress, Mawryngkneng), Azad Zaman (UDP, Rajabala) and Syntar Klas Sunn (Independent, Mawphlang).
In Mizoram, the bypoll to the Tuirial was necessitated following the death of sitting Zoram People's Movement (ZPM) legislator Andrew H. Thangliana.
Four candidates -- K. Laldawngliana of the ruling Mizo National Front, Laltlanmawia of the ZPM, Chalrosanga Ralte of the Congress, and the BJP's K. Laldinthara are in the fray.