Lahaul and Spiti: Around 98.08 per cent voter turnout was recorded in the world’s highest polling station booth in Lahaul and Spiti’s Tashigang on Saturday. Of the 52 registered voters, 51 stepped out to elect a new state government amid polling in Himachal Pradesh. Situated at a height of 15,256 feet, the polling station in Tashigang was made a Model Polling station to make voting easy for senior citizens and disabled voters.
Voting to elect the new government in Himachal Pradesh across 68 seats began at 8am on Saturday amid tight security. A total of 55,92,828 electors who can cast their votes till 5 pm today will decide the fate of 412 candidates who are in the fray. Out of the total number of electorates in the state, 27,37,845 are women, 28,54,945 men and 38 were third-gender. As many as 24 women candidates, across parties, are in fray this time.
The high-voltage campaigning for the state polls ended on November 10, with the key players,. BJP and the Congress, deploying their heavyweights, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Chattisgahr Chief Minister Bhupaesh, among others, to campaign for their respective party candidates.
The fight is in between the ruling BJP in the state which is looking to retain power ditching the trend of the alternate party coming to power every five years since 1982, and Congress which is banking on its ’10 guarantees’ that the party listed out in its manifesto to take them home. Aam Aadmi Party is in line looking to leave a mark in the state and thus contesting on all the 68 seats alone.
The challenge for the ruling BJP will be to buck anti-incumbency and change the trend of the alternate government. Besides these three parties, parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Rashtriya Devbhumi Party (RDP) are in the fray.
According to Election Commission, a total of 7,881 polling stations have been set up for today’s polls. The Kangra district has a maximum of 1,625 polling stations while the Lahaul-Spiti district has the lowest 92. There are 7,235 polling stations in rural and 646 polling stations in urban areas. Besides, three auxiliary polling stations have also been set up at Sidhbari (Dharamshala), Bara Bhangal (Baijnath) and Dhillon (Kasauli).
Among the key contests include Seraj where Chief Minister Jairam Thakur is contesting against Congress’ Chetram Thakur and AAP candidate Gita Nand Thakur. Mahinder Rana is the CPI-M candidate. Congress state chief Mukesh Agnihotri who contesting his fifth election from the Haroli assembly segment in the Una district where BJP has fielded Ramkumar and AAP pitted Ravinder Pal Singh Mann.
In Hamirpur, BJP’s Narinder Thakur is the key challenger against Congress’ Pushpendra Verma and AAP’s Shushil Kumar Surroch.In Mandi, the battle is between BJP candidate Anil Sharma and Congress’ Champa Thakur. AAP fielded Shyam Lal in the seat.
Meanwhile, 67 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) comprising 6,700 personnel and 15 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) companies have been deployed for holding free and fair Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh.
Besides this, 50,000 government employees have been put on poll duty. As many as 25,000 police officers are also stationed across the state. Teams from the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) comprising 800 personnel have also been posted. In 2017, BJP swept the Himachal polls, bagging 44 of the total 68 seats while Congress managed to get just 21 seats.