74 per cent voting recorded as BJP, Cong battle in 68 constituencies in HP polls

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Shimla: Polling for the 68-seat Himachal Pradesh assembly in a single phase ended amid tight security on Thursday. Voters across the state could be seen reaching polling stations even before polling started at 8 am. despite cold.

74 per cent voting has been recorded till now in Himachal Pradesh and is likely to go up, the Election Commission of India told a news agency.

A total of 337 candidates, including 60 sitting MLAs, are contesting for power over the 68-member legislative assembly of Himachal Pradesh, one of the very few states under Congress control.

A total of 50,25,941 voters were eligible to cast their vote.

As many as 7,525 polling booths were set up in the state and 37,605 polling personnel have been deputed for poll duty. Besides, 17,850 personnel of police and Home Guards and 65 companies of central paramilitary force were deployed.

To ensure free and fair polls, other officials, including 29 general, three police and 22 expenditure observers as well as 1,561 micro observers, were also deployed throughout the state.

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 10 ministers, eight chief parliamentary secretaries, Deputy Speaker Jagat Singh Negi, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and over a dozen former ministers were among those who have thrown their hat in the ring.

“The Congress party will be victorious with full majority,” said Singh.

On the other hand, Dhumal told ANI, “We aimed to get 50 plus seats, but now that we are receiving so much support from all sections of the society, we expect it to cross 60.”

The Congress has projected incumbent Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh as its chief ministerial candidate, while Prem Kumar Dhumal is the BJP’s. Both are contesting the elections.

The ruling Congress and the BJP, led by former chief minister Dhumal, are contesting all 68 seats. BSP is contesting 42 seats, CPI(M) 14, Swabhiman Party and Lok Gathbandhan Party six each and the CPI three. There are also 112 Independents in the fray.

Both Virbhadra Singh and Dhumal have shifted their constituencies. While the Congress leader is contesting from Arki, the BJP leader has chosen Sujanpur.

The 12-day high-voltage campaign, which ended Tuesday, saw over 450 rallies by star campaigners of the BJP and the Congress.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed seven rallies and BJP president Amit Shah six.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi addressed three rallies.

Corruption was the main focus of the BJP campaign with the party training its guns on the chief minister while the Congress hit out at the BJP over the issue of GST and demonetisation.

Dharamsala has the maximum number of candidates at 12.

Chief Parliamentary Secretary Mansa Ram, who was elected for the first time in 1967 from Karsog (SC), is in the fray for the eleventh time.

There are 19 women in the fray, six from the BJP and three from the Congress. Seven rebels each from the two parties are also contesting the polls.

At present, the Congress has 35 and the BJP 28 MLAs in the 68-member House. There are four independents while one seat is vacant.

Web-casting was used in 2,307 polling stations for live monitoring of polling activities.

According to officials, 7,525 electronic voting machines (EVMs) and VVPAT paper trail machines were used.

The Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail machines were used for the first time in this election. An estimated 10 per cent of the total number of EVMs and VVPATs were kept in reserve.

The Election Commission also allowed electors to cast their vote by producing any one document of the 12 identity documents.

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