Polling for the 68-seat Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections in a single phase ended on Thursday, with initial figures of 74 per cent voter turnout. The results will be declared on 18 December.
Election officials said the polling was peaceful and no major untoward incident was reported from the 68 seats. However, there were reports of malfunctioning of EVMs and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines at a few polling booths, which led voting continuing at these booths even after the polls officially closed at 5 pm.
“The percentage is expected to go up further as there were voters in about 500 booths at that hour. This is the highest poll percentage recorded by the hill state in assembly polls,” Dilip Sharma, Director General, Election Commission of India
Sharma said, 297 VVPATs (Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail) machines were replaced due to technical problems – 218 before the start of polling and 79 during the poll.
The final polling percentage in 2012 Himachal Pradesh Assembly polls was 73.51 per cent.
However, voter faced difficulties owing to snag in Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) at polling booths in Shimla, Lahaul Spiti, Kinnaur, Sirmaur, Kangra and Solan districts.
A dozen constituencies, including Shimla, Theog, Palampur, Dehra, Shahpur, are set to witness a close contest with rebels of two parties keeping the official nominees on toes.
Eighteen political parties are trying their luck in the HP polls this time, although the main contest is between the Congress and BJP.
While Shimla Assembly segment, that registered the lowest poling percentage of 51 per cent in 2012 polls, saw a 65 per cent voter turnout.
The highest polling booth of Asia in Spiti valley in tribal Lahaul Spiti Assembly segment registered the highest 81.44 per cent voter turnout, although the voter strength here is 194.
In a village in Mandi district in Sandhol, the villagers boycotted the poll as their long pending demand of road connectivity has not been addressed for last two decades by successive governments.
Voters across the state could be seen reaching polling stations even before polling started at 8 am despite cold weather conditions.
Earlier, reports of fault in VVPAT machines were received in Sirmaur district, where polling was delayed by 15-20 minutes.
A total of 337 candidates, 19 of them women, are in the fray.
The main contest in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections 2017 is between the ruling Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The Congress has projected incumbent Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh as its chief ministerial candidate, while Prem Kumar Dhumal is the BJP’s CM candidate.
Prem Kumar Dhumal took to Twitter share a photo of his entire family after exercising his franchise in Hamirpur district.
लोकतंत्र के यज्ञ में आहुति दी।✌🏻 pic.twitter.com/xDHSSamWBF
— Prem Kumar Dhumal (@DhumalHP) November 9, 2017
Virbhadra Singh and his family cast their vote at Rampur early morning, while Dhumal family exercised their franchise at their native place in Hamirpur.
Besides 17,850 personnel of police and Home Guards and 65 companies of central paramilitary force have been deployed.
The ruling Congress led by the chief minister and the BJP led with former chief minister Dhumal are contesting all 68 seats while the BSP is contesting 42 seats, followed by the CPI(M) 14, Swabhiman Party and Lok Gathbandhan Party six each and the CPI-3.
A total of 50.25 lakh electorate, including 19 lakh women and 14 transgenders, will decide the fate of the candidates.
The polling will continue till 5 pm.
The vote count will be held on December 18 along with those of Gujarat.
(With agency inputs)