After a slow start, voters turned out in record numbers on Sunday to vote for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh assembly.
A turnout of 75% — figure expected to touch 77% or even higher — will have the ruling BJP worried. Typically, a good turnout means voters are looking for a change and the hill state has only once, in 1985, returned a government.
It is a straight contest between the BJP and the Congress but former state BJP chief Maheshwar Singh’s Himachal Lokhith Party and rebels — both the parties have plenty of them — may prove crucial in some segments. A record 459 candidates are in the fray whose fate will be known on December 20. The election is a litmus test for 78-year-old Congress stalwart and former CM Virbhadra Singh, who battled odds within the party before being given charge of the state. Outgoing CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, too, had to do a lot of fire-fighting within the party but that was the easy part — getting re-elected, well, that’s altogether a different ballgame.