Himachal Pradesh: How EC prepped for polls in the hilly state
There are 65 polling stations in Himachal Pradesh situated over 10,000 ft above the sea level and 20 of them are situated 12,000 ft above the sea level
The Election Commission of India (ECI) has set up 7,884 polling stations across Himachal Pradesh with 20 of them situated 12,000 ft above the sea level for Saturday’s elections to the 68-member state assembly, officials familiar with the matter said.
In the highest polling station, Tashigang, in Lahaul Spiti at 15,270 ft, there are only 54 voters while in Kurched, there are 56 voters. Both the areas fall way above the snowline, with the Election Commission deploying special teams of the Border Road Organisation (BRO) and the Public Work Department (PWD) to clear the way for the voters.
There are 65 polling stations situated over 10,000 ft above the sea level. There are over 5.5 million electors in the state, of which 56,000 are specially abled persons and 1,184 are 100+ years of age. Himachal Pradesh has 43,173 new voters this time.
To establish a polling station in Fatehpur, Kangra, the Election Commission dispatched a team by a boat. There are nearly 90 voters who will cast their ballot at this polling station. A special team has also been sent to Chitkul, known as the last polling station in Himachal, which borders China. “There are nearly 40-50 parties in the higher altitudes to manage polling,” an official familiar with the matter said. “Special arrangements have been made to counter any hindrances in snow bound areas.”
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Of the 7,884 polling stations, 157 are managed only by women, one of which is called a ‘pink polling station’ in Chintpurni.
The Commission has also deputed three choppers, which will be at the disposal of the chief electoral officer, in case of contingencies. “The Commission has already sent road clearing equipment,” a second official said. “Two snow-bound areas were identified in Rohtang which have been cleared.”
The first officials added that the rehearsals for the polls had already been conducted and the preparation for polling would begin at 6am on Saturday.
The Congress, which is aiming to return to power in the hilly state, is busy battling infighting. Yet to resolve its leadership crisis, the party has been hit by discontent and defections though Congress leaders came out in one voice to criticise the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent rallies.
The Jairam Thakur-led BJP government in the state is seeking to return to power, banking on the popularity of PM Modi, who has held several rallies in the state and announced projects worth over ₹6,000 crore ahead of the polls. The BJP is focusing sharply on the Kangra region that elects about a quarter of the state’s assembly members. Kangra has historically shown a trend of voting against the incumbent regime, raising concerns for the saffron party this time. The party that wins the most seats in Kangra usually forms the government in the state. Meanwhile, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is also attempting to make a dent in the two-party state.