Shimla: The day for the electorate to decide the political fate of the leaders across parties in Himachal Pradesh has arrived with the polling for the assembly elections is all set to begin at 8 am on Saturday.
The high-voltage political campaigns came to an end on November 10, setting up the stage for the voters to cast their vote to elect the new government. The voting will go on till 5 pm today. The votes will be counted on December 8.
Voting is all set to take place on all the 68 Assembly seats of the state, the majority of which (44) had come in the BJP's bag in the 2017 Assembly polls, with Congress being restricted to just 21 seats.
The voters need to carry their Electors Photo Identity Cards (EPIC) and show it at the polling booth. They may also carry one ID beside their photo voter slips.
According to the Election Commission, a total of 55,92,828 electors--of which 27,37,845 are women, 28,54,945 are men, and 38 are transgender persons--will decide the faith of 412 candidates. This time, the representation of woman candidates is 24.
Parties in the fray
The state has seen the power alternate between the BJP and Congress over the past several elections. While the BJP has expressed confidence in returning to power on the basis of the performance of the State and Union governments and its vision for the state, the Congress is hoping that some of its electoral promises will be a major draw among the electorate.
Aam Adami Party (AAP) too hopes to create a mark in the state and is contesting on all 68 seats.
Besides these three parties, parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI), and Rashtriya Devbhumi Party (RDP) are in the fray.
BJP brought star campaigners like Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party chief Jagat Prakash Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for the polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also campaigned in the hill state. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also hit the ground along with other top leaders of the party including Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
Today's polls also carry much significance for JP Nadda since Himachal Pradesh is his native state.
According to Election Commission, a total of 7,881 polling stations have been set up for the polls. The Kangra district has a maximum of 1,625 polling stations while the Lahaul-Spiti district has the lowest 92. There are 7,235 polling stations in rural and 646 polling stations in urban areas. Besides, three auxiliary polling stations will also be set up at Sidhbari (Dharamshala), Bara Bhangal (Baijnath) and Dhillon (Kasauli).
The key constituencies include Seraj from where Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur is contesting again. Congress has put up Chetram Thakur who had contested from the seat last time also. Mahinder Rana is the CPI-M candidate.
Candidates from different constituencies
Congress legislature party leader Mukesh Agnihotri is contesting his fifth election from the Haroli assembly segment in the Una district. BJP has pitted state spokesperson Ram Kumar against him.
Former Himachal Pradesh Congress chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, seen as a chief ministerial aspirant, is contesting from Nadaun. The BJP has fielded Vijay Agnihotri.
Former Himachal Minister and Congress leader Asha Kumari is contesting from Dalhousie. She is pitted against BJP's DS Thakur and AAP's Manish Sareen.
Senior Congress leader Kaul Singh Thakur is again fighting from his traditional seat of Darang against BJP's Puran Chand Thakur and AAP candidate Sunita Thakur.
Vikramaditya Singh, son of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, is recontesting from Shimla rural. BJP has fielded Ravi Mehta from the seat.
In Shimla Urban, Congress' Harish Janartha is taking on BJP's 'chaiwala' candidate Sanjay Sood. AAP's Chaman Rakesh Ajta and CPI-M's Tikender Singh Pawar are also in the fray.
In Nurpur, BJP has fielded a new candidate Ranveer Singh who is fighting against Ajay Mahajan of Congress and Manishi Kumari from AAP.
Bhawani Paathania, who won the recent by-election from Fatehpur, is fighting against BJP minister and candidate Rakesh Pathania. AAP has fielded former Himachal minister Rajan Sushant.
In Nagrota, Congress candidate RS Bali is fighting against BJP candidate Arun Kumar Mehra and APP candidate Umakant Dogra.
Speaker of Himachal Pradesh Assembly Vipin Parmar is fighting from Sulah against Jagdish Sapheia and AAP candidate Ravinder Singh.
In Sujanpur, Congress has again fielded Rajinder Singh Rana who defeated former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal in the 2017 elections. BJP has fielded Ranjit Singh from the seat and AAP has fielded Anil Rana.
Dr Janak Raj of BJP is taking on senior Congress leader Thakur Singh Bharmauri from Bharmaur. AAP has fielded Prakash Chand Bharadwaj.
In Jubbal Kotkhai, the Congress has fielded sitting MLA Rohit Thakur. He is fighting against Chetan Singh Bragta of the BJP. CPI-M has fielded Vishal Shangta and Shrikant Chauhan is an AAP candidate.
Former Congress state chief Kuldeep Rathore is pitted against CPI-M's Rakesh Singha, BJP's Ajay Shyam and AAP's Attar Singh.
Minister Suresh Bhardwaj was shifted from Shimla to Kasumpti. Congress candidate Anirudh Singh and CPI-M candidate Kuldeep Singh Tanwar are also in the fray.
Preparation for the polls
Meanwhile, 67 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) comprising 6,700 personnel and 15 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) companies have been deployed to hold free and fair Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh.
Besides this, 50,000 government employees have been put on poll duty. As many as 25,000 police officers are also stationed across the state.
Teams from the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) comprising 800 personnel have also been posted.
In 2017, BJP swept the Himachal polls, bagging 44 of the total 68 seats while Congress managed to get just 21 seats.