Over 74 per cent of 50.25 lakh electorate in Himachal Pradesh on Thursday exercised their franchise in the assembly elections where the ruling Congress and the BJP were locked in a straight contest. According to the Election Commission, this is the highest polling in assembly elections in the 36-year history of the state.
The EC said that figure was till 5 pm and the final polling percentage may be revised as final voting figures are yet to be tallied.
Deputy Election Commissioner Sandeep Saxena informed that the previous highest polling percentage of 73.5 was recorded in the 2012 assembly polls. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, it was 64.45 per cent.
Saxena said the elections were peaceful and no incident of violence was reported. A total of 11,283 VVPAT units were used in all polling booths of the 68 constituencies out of which 297 were replaced.
A total of 337 candidates, 19 of them women, are in the fray. There are 112 Independent candidates. The main contest is between the ruling Congress and the BJP.
The Congress has projected incumbent Virbhadra Singh as its Chief Ministerial candidate, while former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal is the BJP's. Both are contesting the elections. Both Singh and Dhumal cast their votes along with family members at their hometowns Rampur and Samirpur respectively.
Union Health Minister JP Nadda and Congress leader and former Commerce Minister Anand Sharma cast their votes in Bilaspur and Shimla towns.
"The BJP has made false promises, run fake campaigns in the state to lure the voters," Sharma said.
After casting his votes, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who is try to get at the helm for the seventh time, said he was confident of the Congress getting a majority.
On the other hand, two-time Chief Minister and Leader of Opposition Dhumal said the BJP was aiming to get 60 plus seats this time.
Women, who form 19 lakh of the over 50 lakh voters, turned out in strength in the rural areas. The electorate also includes 14 transgenders.
The Congress and the BJP have fielded candidates on all 68 seats, while the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Communist Party of India-Marxist have fielded 42 and 14 candidates respectively.
Shyam Sharan Negi, 100, the first voter of India, cast his vote for the 15th time in the assembly polls at Kalpa in Kinnaur district.
The Congress is currently ruling the hill state and the BJP is eyeing to return to power after a gap of five years. In the outgoing 68-member assembly, the Congress and the BJP have 35 and 28 MLAs respectively. There are four Independent MLAs while one seat was vacant.
The poll results will be announced on December 18.
With PTI Inputs