Patna: 57% polling was recorded in the by-election to the Araria Lok Sabha constituency in Bihar on Sunday, a senior poll official said.

The by-poll in Araria is being viewed as a test for the ruling Janata Dal (United) or JD(U) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine as well as the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)-Congress alliance, ahead of the big battle in the general elections due next year.

In the Bhabua and Jehanabad assembly constituencies, where by-polls were also held, the voter turnout was 54.03% and 50.06% respectively after polling ended at 5pm, Bihar chief electoral officer Ajay V. Nayak said.

The ruling JD(U)-BJP combine and the opposition RJD-Congress alliance were locked in a battle on the three seats. This is the first electoral battle in the state since chief minister Nitish Kumar, who also heads the JD(U), walked out of the alliance with the RJD and the Congress and joined the BJP-led NDA last year.

The polling was by and large peaceful, the election official added. The by-election to the Araria seat was necessitated by the death of sitting RJD lawmaker Mohd Taslimuddin. The contest is mainly between RJD’s Sarafaraz Alam, Taslimuddin’s son, and BJP’s Pradip Singh, who had won the seat in 2009 and finished runner-up in 2014.

In Jehanabad, the RJD hopes to retain the assembly seat that fell vacant after the death of Mundrika Yadav. The party gave ticket to Yadav’s son Kumar Krishna Mohan. On the other hand, the BJP is hopeful of retaining the Bhabhua assembly seat riding on a sympathy wave for Anand Bhushan Pandey whose death at the age of 48 necessitated the bypoll.

The saffron party fielded Pandey’s wife Rinky Rani. Counting of votes will take place on 14 March.