Voting is set to begin for the Himachal Pradesh Assembly Elections 2017 on Thursday. A total of 50,25,941 voters are expected to cast their votes for the 68-seat Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha. Voting will take place between 8 am and 5 pm to decide the fate of 337 candidates in the fray. The hill state is seeing a tight battle between the ruling Congress and Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
It has been a power packed campaign for the Himachal Pradesh polls. While the BJP organised over 200 rallies campaigning in the hill state, the Congress organised about 110. From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, the battle for Himachal Pradesh has seen a high pitch fight between the two parties.
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 ruling Congress led by the chief minister and the BJP led with former chief minister Dhumal are contesting all 68 seats while the BSP is contesting 42 seats, followed by the CPI(M) 14, Swabhiman Party and Lok Gathbandhan Party six each and the CPI-3.
Out of the 68 constituencies in the Himachal Pradesh Assembly, 17 are reserved for Scheduled Castes and three for Scheduled Tribes. The state has achieved the distinction of being only the second state after Goa with 100 percent VVPAT (Voter-verified paper audit trail) coverage. The VVPAT machines are being used in all the 7,521 polling stations and the size of screens have been increased to 10 cm.
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.