Himachal: Moderate polling as voters trudge through snow to elect new govt

The highest polling of 62.75 per cent was recorded in Lahaul and Spiti district, followed by 60.38 per cent in Sirmour and 58.9 per cent in Mandi, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur's home district.

Published: 12th November 2022 08:44 AM  |   Last Updated: 12th November 2022 06:19 PM   |  A+A-

Voters wait in a queue to cast their votes for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, at a polling station in Dharamshala district. (Photo | PTI)

Voters wait in a queue to cast their votes for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections, at a polling station in Dharamshala district. (Photo | PTI)


SHIMLA: From Shimla to the icy heights of Spiti, people across Himachal Pradesh voted on Saturday to elect a new state government. The state recorded a voter turnout of 65 per cent.

It is a crucial test for the BJP hoping to beat precedent and return to power as well as for the Congress looking for electoral revival. Voting began at 8 am on a slow note but picked up as the day progressed and the sun warmed the winter chill.

By 3 pm, 55.65 per cent of the electorate had voted, the Election Commission (EC) said. Polling was scheduled to end at 5 pm.

The highest polling of 62.75 per cent was recorded in Lahaul and Spiti district, followed by 60.38 per cent in Sirmour and 58.9 per cent in Mandi, Chief Minister Jairam Thakur's home district.

As voting got underway, people could be seen basking in the sun as they waited for their turn, and some, in the higher reaches of the mountains, trudging through the snow to reach polling stations.
IN PICS| Himachal polls: Voters turn up from high altitude to snow-capped regions

Till 3 pm, Seraj in Mandi and Sujanpur recorded 65 per cent polling, the highest among the 68 assembly constituencies. Anni constituency recorded polling of 62.4 per cent, Arki 40 per cent, Churah 34.68 per cent and Dalhousie 38.44 per cent, among others.

In an early morning message to voters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged them to enthusiastically participate in the "festival of democracy" and register a voting record. In a tweet, Modi also greeted young voters who will be exercising their franchise for the first time.

Braving the cold, a large number of centenarians voted in the assembly elections with 105-year-old Nari Devi exercising her franchise in Churah in Chamba and 103-year-old Pyar Singh in Shimla.

The EC had made special arrangements for the elderly and persons with disabilities at polling stations.

There are over 1.21 lakh elderly above 80 years in the state, with 1,136 being centenarians.

In Chasak Bhatpri, an 83-year-old woman was among those who cast their vote in the Bharmaur constituency in Chamba, the farthest in the state, the poll panel said.

"Bharmour is the farthest in the state being at a distance of 14 km from nearest road head. Seeing huge response from the voters despite heavy snow," the EC said sharing her picture in snow.

The chief minister echoed Modi and said every vote will help build a prosperous Himachal Pradesh. Thakur also addressed the prime minister in a separate tweet and said there was a lot of enthusiasm among voters.

"Certainly, according to your call, voters in the state will create a new record by participating in the polling and are going to create a new 'riwaaz' (trend). Warm greetings to you," Thakur, who voted in Mandi with his wife and daughters after offering prayers at a temple, said in Hindi. "We are confident of the BJP's grand victory. We are getting good feedback," he told reporters in Mandi from where he is contesting.
READ | Jairam Thakur will continue to be CM face in Himachal: BJP chief Nadda

Enthusing voters to back the Congress, former Congress president Rahul Gandhi also asked them to turn out in large numbers and make their contribution to the progress and prosperous future of the state.

"Himachal will vote for OPS (old pension scheme), Himachal will vote for employment, Himachal will vote for 'Har Ghar Lakshmi'," he said in a tweet in Hindi.

If the ruling BJP is hoping for an encore on the back of its development agenda, the opposition Congress, desperate to wrest the state back from the BJP after multiple electoral losses and losing nine states in two years, is appealing to voters to go by the four-decade tradition of voting out incumbents in the state.

The grand old party has made a host of promises, including Rs 1,500 to all women every month under the 'Har Ghar Lakshmi' scheme, 300 units of free power and five lakh jobs in the next five years. It has also promised a Rs 680-crore StartUp fund.

The BJP has promised implementation of the Uniform Civil Code and eight lakh jobs in the state, besides scooties for college-going girls and cycles for school girls belonging to weaker sections.

More than 55 lakh voters in the state are deciding the fate of 412 candidates in this high-stakes political battle. These include Vikramaditya Singh, son of former chief minister Virbhadhra Singh and state Congress chief Pratibha Singh who is contesting from Shimla Rural. He and his mother prayed at the Shani temple in Shimla before casting their votes.

Twenty-four women candidates are in the fray this time. Of the total voters, 28,54,945 are male and 27,37,845 are female.

Former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, his son and Union minister Anurag Thakur voted in Hamirpur. BJP president J P Nadda voted with his family in Bilaspur.

Former Union minister Anand Sharma exercised his franchise in Shimla while CLP leader Mukesh Agnihotri did so in Haroli from where he is contesting.

Modi has led the campaign from the front for the BJP, wrapping up his canvassing with a personal appeal to voters of the state, saying that every vote cast for the BJP symbol "lotus" will enhance his strength.

The BJP has also asked voters to change the "riwaaz" by re-electing the party, saying the "double engine" regime will continue to work for all-round development.

The Congress has backed principally on Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is the new entrant in Himachal and is contesting in 67 of 68 seats, has been fairly quiet as the contest shaped up as a direct one between the BJP and the Congress in line with past trends.

Voting began after poll officials conducted a mock drill at all booths to check electronic voting machines.

"Nearly 50,000 polling staff and around 25,000 security staff were deployed," Himachal Pradesh's Chief Electoral Officer Maneesh Garg told PTI.

The EC set up 7,884 polling stations, including three auxiliary voting stations in far-flung areas. Of these, 789 were vulnerable booths and 397 were critical ones. The highest booth is in Tashigang, Kaza in the Spiti area of Lahaul and Spiti district at a height of 15,256 feet. It caters to 52 voters.


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