The start was slow but, by the evening, Himachal Pradesh’s voters set a new record with 75% turnout in the assembly elections held on Sunday. The fate of the candidates, and the state, is now sealed, and will be revealed on December 20 along with results of the Gujarat polls.
The overall turnout, which broke the record of 74.51% set in 2003, is considerably higher than the last elections in 2007, when 71.61% voters exercised their franchise.
Barring sporadic verbal duels and altercations, there was no incident of violence reported from anywhere. “In all 68 assembly constituencies of the state, voting concluded peacefully as per the information received at 5pm,” confirmed chief electoral officer Narinder Chauhan, who gave the turnout figure.
There are 459 candidates in fray for the 68 constituencies. Apart from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), main opposition Congress, the newly floated Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) and the Left, three other mainstream parties – the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) – took part this time.
HIGH IN HIGHER REACHES
As it was a Sunday, the voting started slowly but picked up by noon. Enthusiasm was particularly high in the higher reaches and the far-flung tribal areas, while lower Himachal witnessed moderate polling. Areas of what is known as old Himachal -- including Shimla, Sirmour, Kullu, Chamba, Kinnaur and Mandi regions -- witnessed moderate to heavy polling. The highest percentage was registered at 94.8 % in Nalagarh constituency, while the Shimla-Urban segment saw a lowly 58.77% turnout.
“The voters came out early as mercury plunges considerably as the day progresses,” noted Rajiv Shankar, deputy commissioner-cum-returning officer of Kinnaur. To keep the voters warm, the district administration had made special arrangements of firewood in at least 25 polling stations situated at 9,500 to 12,500 feet above sea level.
District-wise, Chamba saw 75.25% voting, Kangra 72.68%, Lahaul-Spiti 68%, Kullu 78.74 %, Mandi 76.95%, Solan 80.34%, Sirmour 81.48%, Shimla 69.85%, Kinnaur 74.28%.
Shimla-Rural, from where state Congress chief Virbhadra Singh is contesting, witnessed 59.1% polling. Chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal’s segment Hamirpur fared better at 68.63%