Thirteen percent of the voters in Himachal Pradesh turned out in the first three hours of polling Wednesday to elect the four MPs from the state, an official said.
"The voter turnout was below five percent in the first hour but by 10 a.m. it rose to 13 percent," state chief electoral officer Anil Khachi told IANS.
Voting began at 7 a.m. in most polling stations. However, it was delayed in two polling booths in Shimla constituency due to malfunctioning electronic voting machines (EVMs).
Himachal Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, former chief minister and Congress candidate from Mandi Virbhadra Singh, his wife and sitting MP Pratibha Singh, and Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma were among the early voters.
Thirty-one candidates, including nine independents, are in the fray for the four seats - Shimla (reserved for Scheduled Castes), Kangra, Mandi and Hamirpur.
The main contest is between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Congress leader and five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh is pitted against the BJP's three-time MP Maheshwar Singh from Mandi.
Two sitting Congress MPs, Dhani Ram Shandil and Chander Kumar, have been fielded by the party in Shimla and Kangra respectively against the BJP's Virender Kashyap and Rajan Sushant.
From Hamirpur, the Congress has fielded BJP rebel Narinder Thakur against the BJP's sitting MP Anurag Thakur, the son of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal.
For the first time, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has fielded a candidate for the Mandi seat - Onkar Shad, a technocrat, who is expected to dent the Congress' winning margin.
The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has fielded candidates for all the four seats; the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has fielded one candidate from Kangra.
The Election Commission has set up 7,253 polling stations in the state to enable 4,604,832 voters to exercise their franchise through around 11,000 electronic voting machines (EVMs).
The highest polling station in the state has been set up at an elevation of over 15,000 feet at Hikkam in Lahaul and Spiti district. It has 321 electors.
The Kaa polling station in Kinnaur district has only 19 voters - the lowest in the state.
Kunnu-Charang in Kinnaur's Pooh subdivision is the remotest polling stations in the state where voters have to trudge some 10 to 20 km to vote. The polling booth has just 169 voters.
The state has 708 hypersensitive polling stations and 1,259 sensitive ones. Over 15,000 police, paramilitary and home guards personnel have been deployed.
Kinnaur district, adjoining China, has the highest number of 36 hypersensitive polling stations.