Voting for the 68-member Himachal Pradesh Assembly ended this evening at 5 PM, with 71% voters casting their ballot. BJP and Congress are locked in a keen contest in the hill state, which has seen the two parties ousting each other after the end of the term since 1990’s.
The two top contenders – incumbent Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and BJP’s CM face Prem Kumar Dhumal were among the early risers to cast their ballot.
337 candidates are in fray. While, the Congress and BJP are contesting on all 68 seats, CPI(M) has fielded 14 candidates, and 187 candidates of small parties and independents are also contesting.
73-year-old Prem Kumar Dhumal, whose name was announced by the BJP just few weeks ago, is a two-term chief minister and a leader of opposition in the outgoing assembly. He is seeking to thwart the Congress’s chief ministerial candidate Virbhadra Singh’s record seventh shot at power.
Virbhadra Singh, 83, the tallest Congress leader in the state, is facing graft cases and is locked in a bitter feud with state Congress chief Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu whose ouster he sought but failed to ensure ahead of the elections.
The old Congress warhorse also has to contend with the possible anti-incumbency.
Among the keen contest, Dhumal is pitted against Rajinder Rana (Congress) in a five-cornered fight in Sujanpur.
Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya Singh is making his electoral debut from Shimla (Rural) constituency where he is facing a stiff challenge from Pramod Sharma, a former protege of his father now contesting as the BJP nominee.
Another contest that would be keenly watched is for the Mandi seat where former Union minister Sukhram’s son Anil Sharma is contesting as the BJP candidate. Anil Sharma quit the Congress in the run up to the elections.
State BJP chief Satpal Singh Satti is facing Satpal Singh Raizada of the Congress in a five-cornered contest in Una, while state Congress chief Sukhvinder Singh Sukkhu is pitted against sitting BJP MLA Vijay Agnihotri in a six-way fight in Nadaun.
The counting of votes would be taken up on December 18.
(With inputs from PTI)