After last week's floods left Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh devastated, the Election Commission (EC) on Friday decided to defer the byelection in the area to June 27.
"The ECI has deferred the elections in all 118 booths of Kinnaur district to June 27, while the elections in the rest of the Mandi Lok Sabha constituency will be held as scheduled on June 23," chief electoral officer Narinder Chauhan told Hindustan Times.
The counting, which was earlier scheduled for June 27, will now be done on June 30.
After rains caused havoc in the district, the chief electoral officer had forwarded a detailed report to the chief election commission in New Delhi. The ECI, which met in Delhi on Thursday morning, decided to defer the elections after analysing that it was difficult to lift men and material in the flood-ravaged areas of Kinnaur.
Of the 118 polling booths in the district, flash floods and incessant rain have left 104 inaccessible. Kinnaur deputy commissioner JM Pathania has already written to the chief electoral office, suggesting that the elections be postponed by a week.
Nearly 600 men of the state police and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and nearly 500 government employees are on election duty in Kinnaur.
The preliminary assessment conducted by the government reveals that flash floods have caused heavy damage to the roads and government property. Around 200 km of roads comprising the main national highway link and other lateral roads had been damaged.
According to the public works department, the main highway connecting China border had been blocked at 70 odd places. The damage to the road was more on 20-km stretch between Kashang and Akpa. Heavy rains in Kinnaur have caused widespread damage to fruit crops and the large tracts of apple orchards have been washed away.
Additional electoral officer PL Negi, who toured the flood-struck areas of Kinnaur, told Hindustan Times from Reckong Peo that floods had caused extensive damage to road and property and people said it was difficult for them to cast votes.
In total 52,361 votes are registered in Kinnaur district. Pratibha Singh, wife of chief minister Virbhadra Singh, is the Congress nominee, while Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has fielded former rural development minister Jai Ram Thakur.