Himachal elections: 74% turnout recorded, women come out in large numbers
The previous highest polling percentage of 73.5 was recorded in the 2012 assembly polls.Updated: Nov 09, 2017 23:00 IST
People in Himachal Pradesh voted in big numbers on Thursday to pick the new assembly, with the hill state with five million voters recording a turnout of 74% amid reports of widespread glitches in voting machines on an otherwise peaceful day.
The ruling Congress and the BJP are locked in a tight battle in the state, which became the first to have voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) machines used at all 7,525 polling stations.
As many as 337 candidates are in the fray for 68 assembly seats, the results of which would be declared on December 18 along with those for Gujarat, where election will be held in two phases in December.
Chief minister Virbhadra Singh, eyeing a seventh term, and Bharatiya Janata Party’s CM candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal were among the first to cast their vote in the state that hasn’t returned a government in the last 30 years.
But the star of the day was independent India’s first voter, 100-year-old Shyam Saran Negi. A red carpet was rolled out for the retired school teacher who exercised his right in Kalpa in Kinnaur district that borders Tibet.
Negi entered the history books when he became first Indian to cast his vote in the 1951 Lok Sabha election. Negi has voted in 16 parliamentary and 13 state elections.
His enthusiasm seems to have rubbed off even though voting got off to a slow start.
Only 13.72% voting was reported in the first two hours but it picked up, with long queues seen at polling stations in the state capital, Shimla, and other major towns. Voting went well beyond the 5pm deadline.
The brisk day of polling was marred by snags in voting machines at several places. The VVPAT machines – a verification printer device attached to EVMs – developed snags at 129 booths, delaying polling.
Also, 101 ballot units (voting panels) and 67 control units that record votes had problems. The Election Commission’s plan to webcast from 2,300 polling stations also hit technical hurdles in most places.
High polling was reported from Gagret, Una, Nalagarh, Shilai, Chopal, Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur, Haroli and Jubbal Kotkhai assembly segments, where the BJP and the Congress are locked in a fierce fight. In some these constituencies rebel and independent candidates are giving stiff competition to their BJP and Congress rivals.
In keeping with the state’s history, women voters turned up in large numbers. Perhaps it was the power of their vote that saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi ask women voters in Himachal to record a turnout higher than that of men.
We will have to wait for December 18 to know if the PM managed to garner support for his party, the BJP, or 83-year-old Singh makes history to win his party a second successive term.