As many as 68 constituencies in Himachal Pradesh went to the polls on Thursday to decide the fate of 338 candidates. The voting took place in a single phase in the Congress-ruled state.
The polling began at 8 am. A voter turnout of 74% was recorded till 5 pm, Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena said according to All India Radio. Nearly 7,500 polling booths were set up in the state and more than 37,000 polling personnel deputed, Chief Electoral Officer Pushpendra Rajput said.
More than 17,000 police personnel and home guards were deployed, and 65 companies of central paramilitary forces stationed. Electronic Voting Machines and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail will be used in the polls.
The votes will be counted on December 18, along with that of the Gujarat Assembly elections.
Political rivals, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, contested all 68 Assembly seats, while other national parties such as the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Communist Party of India contested in 42 and 14 seats respectively. Besides 11 regional parties, 112 independent candidates contested in the Assembly elections.
Of the 338 candidates, 319 are male contenders and 19 are women. The Congress has fielded incumbent Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh for the post again who will contest from the Arki Assembly seat. BJP’s Ratan Singh Pal is up against Singh in the constituency.
Meanwhile, the BJP named Prem Kumar Dhumal as its chief ministerial candidate, who has held the post twice before – from March 1993 to March 2003, and from January 2008 to December 2012. He will contest from Sujanpur constituency.
During its rallies, the Congress attacked the BJP over demonetisation and the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. The BJP took on the Congress for the allegations of corruption chief ministerial candidate Virbhadra Singh faces.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah addressed 13 rallies together. Several BJP leaders, including Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, have campaigned in Himachal Pradesh. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, however, addressed only three rallies, all on one day. Virbhadra Singh alone held 90 rallies across the state, NDTV reported.
“I enjoy immense love and affection of the people,” Virbhadra Singh said before the elections on Thursday, according to The Indian Express. “I will be forming the government as the BJP’s attack on me, accusations of corruption will not deter me from serving the people till my last breath.”
Meanwhile, the newspaper quoted BJP’s Dhumal as saying: “It is going to be a double-engine government. BJP in the state, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre.”