The ruling Congress and Opposition BJP in Rajasthan have started the exercise for identifying candidates for by-elections to two Assembly seats — Mandawa and Khinvsar — scheduled for October 21. After facing defeat in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, the bypolls will be a challenge for the Congress, while the BJP pins its hopes on new State president Satish Poonia.The by-elections were necessitated after the sitting MLAs vacated the seats following their election to Lok Sabha. Mandawa MLA Narendra Khichar won as the BJP MP from Jhunjhunu, while Rashtriya Loktantrik Party MLA from Khinvsar, Hanuman Beniwal, won from Nagaur after his regional party entered into an alliance with the BJP and joined the NDA just before general elections.The candidates’ nominations can be filed till September 30 and the date for withdrawal of candidature will be October 3. After the polling on October 21, the results will be declared on October 24, according to the Election Commission.Impact on civic pollsThe by-elections are important for Congress because of their perceptible impact on the municipal polls due in November this year, for which the rival factions in the party wish to field their favourite candidates with the winning potential. Moreover, the party wants to send across a message of its effective governance even after its defeat at all the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the State.For the BJP, the appointment of Mr. Poonia — a Jat leader with strong association with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh — as the party chief may help at the two Jat-dominated seats. The party is yet to make up its mind on entering into alliance with the RLP, though former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje may not play a major role in the candidates’ selection, unlike in the Lok Sabha polls.Mr. Beniwal said on Monday that the RLP-BJP alliance would contest both the Assembly seats and he would like to field his party’s candidate in Khinvsar. “We are willing to support the BJP candidate in Mandawa. The final decision will be take at a meeting of office-bearers of both the parties in a couple of days,” he said.The Congress, which has strengthened its position in the State Assembly after the recent merger of six Bahujan Samaj Party MLAs, may give ticket to a member of Nagaur district’s influential Mirdha family. The party has lost the Khinvsar seat during the last three successive elections, as Mr. Beniwal won first on the BJP ticket in 2008 and later as an Independent in 2013 and as the RLP candidate in 2018.Mandawa was earlier considered a stronghold of veteran Congress leader Ram Narayan Chaudhary, who died in 2012. His daughter Rita Chaudhary defeated Mr. Khichar in 2008, but the latter emerged victorious as an Independent in 2013 and and as a BJP candidate in 2018.