Assembly elections in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh will be held on Thursday with traditional rivals BJP and Congress fighting a neck to neck battle.
In the 68-seat Himachal Pradesh assembly, 337 candidates including 62 MLAs of both BJP and Congress are in the fray.
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 are among those who have thrown their hat in the ring.
The Congress party has once again shown faith in their old horse and fighting the elections on the name of 83-year-old Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.
On the other hand, the BJP has trusted former Chief Minister and an old friend of PM Modi Prem Kumar Dhumal. Both, Virbhadra Singh-led Congress and Dhumal-led BJP are contesting all 68 seats while Mayawati’s BJP is also contesting 42 seats.
The CPI(M) has filled its candidates on 14 seats followed by Swabhiman Party and Lok Gathbandhan Party six each and the CPI- 3.
The 12-days high-voltage campaign, which came to an end Wednesday, saw over 450 rallies by star campaigners of the BJP and the Congress including Prime minister Narendra Modi and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi.
A total of 50,25,941 voters are eligible to cast their vote.
Security tightened in the state:
The security have been tightened in the Himachal and as many as 7,525 polling booths have been 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 have been deployed, Chief Electoral Officer Pushpender Rajput said.
Elaborate arrangements have been made for ensuring free and fair polls and 29 general, three police, 22 Expenditure Observers and 71 Assistant Expenditure Observers, 1,561 Micro Observers, besides, 193 Sector Magistrate and 789 Sectors officers have also been deployed throughout the state.
VVPAT Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) to be used for the first time in assembly polls:
Himachal Pradesh has 100 per cent Photo Identity Card (EPIC) holders and 7525 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) are being used.
VVPAT machines are being used for the first time in this Vidhan Sabha Election and 10 per cent of total EVMs and VVPATs have been kept in reserve.
The Election Commission has also allowed the electors to cast their vote by producing any one document out of the 12 identity documents.