More than 67% voters exercise their franchise in Himachal assembly polls
Shimla, November 12, 2022
More than 67 per cent of more than 55 lakh voters in Himachal Pradesh exercised their franchise in the single-phase polling on Saturday to choose a new 68-member State Legislative Assembly.
Polling began at 8 am amidst tight security and ended at 5 pm, but many voters were still waiting in queues to cast their ballot and the polling percentage was, accordingly, expected to be slightly higher when all the figures are tallied.
Women turned out in strength in rural areas despite the cold weather in the morning.
Only 4 per cent voting was recorded in first hour of polling. It rose to 18 per cent by 11 a.m. and 38 per cent by 1 p.m.
Out of 412 candidates in the fray, 24 are women and 388 men.
A total of 55,92,828 voters were eligible to vote in the elections. Of them, 193,106 are first-time voters in the age of 18-19 years.
There are 121,409 voters above 80 years, while 56,501 others are with disabilities.
The main contest was between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress.
Facing strong winds of anti-incumbency, the BJP leadership led by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur seems to be banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "charisma", while the main Opposition Congress is eyeing to return to the helm by wooing its 2.5-lakh strong government employees, the state's crucial vote bank, with a promise of restoring the old pension scheme.
The senior leadership of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in the fray for the first time in the Assembly polls, has been missing from the state with its leaders focusing on strengthening its vote bank in another poll-bound Gujarat.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, the BJP had won 44 seats, the Congress 21, the CPM one and Independents two. The voter turnout then was 75.57 per cent.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, his wife and two daughters cast their votes at a polling booth in Seraj in Mandi district from where the five-time lawmaker is in the fray again.
After casting his vote, Thakur urged the voters to come out in big numbers and enthusiastically participate in the "festival of democracy".
BJP national president Jagat Prakash Nadda, who cast his vote in Bilaspur district, said the stakes are too high for the BJP.
"We are winning the state by breaking the tradition of no government repeating. The BJP went into the polls banking more on PM Narendra Modi, considering the emotional connect he shares with Himachal, where he remained BJP in charge for seven years," he said.
Ninety-year-old Nazrim Mani and his 87-year-old wife cast their votes at a model polling booth in a school that was opened in 1890 in Kalpa village in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, election officials said.
Government Primary School in Kalpa, some 275 km from the state capital in the Kinnaur Assembly constituency, was the first school in the district.
He flashed his wrinkled inked finger after voting.
After casting the vote, Mani appealed to the voters in the state to participate in the elections with full enthusiasm.
At minus 10-degree Celsius, Tashigang, the world's highest polling station at a height of 15,256 feet in Lahaul and Spiti district, saw a 100 per cent turnout.
Tashigang, a village some 34 km from Kaza, is the highest settlement in the Spiti Valley close to the India-Tibet border.
The village had 52 voters, most of them reached the polling station donning traditional attire.
"I am participating in the election every year to keep democracy alive," 78-year-old Sonam Dolma told the media.
First-timer voter Tenzin Nodan said she was enthusiastic about casting her first vote. "For me, voting was very important."
Greeting the first-timers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the voters to participate in the election process.
"Today is the polling day for all the Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh. I request all the voters of Devbhoomi to participate with full enthusiasm in this festival of democracy and create a new record of voting," he tweeted.
"My special wishes to all the youth of the state who will be voting for the first time today."
Union Home Minister Amit Shah urged the voters of the state to elect a "strong government" by voting in large numbers.
"Only a strong and corruption-free government can fulfill the aspirations of the people of Devbhoomi by keeping Himachal Pradesh at the forefront of development. I appeal to the voters of Himachal, especially mothers, sisters and the youth, to elect a strong government by voting in maximum numbers for the golden future of the state," said Shah.
Counting of votes will take place on December 8 and all the results are expected by that evening.
(With inputs from IANS)