Shimla, Nov 8: Sixty-eight Assembly seats all set for polls on Thursday in a single phase in Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh. Officials said everything was in place for a smooth conduct of the polling in 7,525 booths.
A total of 50.25 lakh voters, including 19 lakh women and 14 transgenders, will decide the fate of 338 candidates. The counting of votes will take place on December 18 along with those of Gujarat.
The CPI-M has fielded candidates on 14 seats while the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which made its debut in the hilly state in the 2014 Lok Sabha election, has preferred to stay away.
The major battle is between two strongest contestants, one is veteran Congress leader and incumbent Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 83, who is pushing hard to get to the helm for a seventh time, while on other hand is the BJP’s Prem Kumar Dhumal, 73, who is also trying to ensure the party’s win.
However, for almost two decades, both the parties in the state have fought almost every assembly and Lok Sabha polls under their leadership.
“This time, Virbhadra Singh is fighting on two fronts — one is to establish his son Vikramaditya Singh, who is contesting his maiden assembly election, and the second is to ensure the party’s repeat as he forced the Congress to announce him as the Chief Ministerial candidate despite all odds,” a political observer told IANS.
For Dhumal, it’s simply the battle for “self-survival” after facing a humiliating defeat in the 2012 assembly polls. Since then, he was almost marginalised by the BJP faction led by Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda.
After thwarting foes within, Virbhadra Singh donned the battle gear much ahead of his arch rival Dhumal, whose name was cleared by the BJP as its Chief Ministerial candidate recently.
In the campaigning, Virbhadra Singh, who is known as ‘Raja Saab’ as he was born into the erstwhile princely state of Bushahr, has no qualms about folding his hands and bowing his head before commoners when it comes to seeking votes.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi held only three election meetings in a single day just a day before the campaigning ended.
From the Congress, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who is known for his “royal ways” owing to his erstwhile Patiala royalty and related to ‘Raja Saab’, campaigned in the state for two days.
On other hand, for BJP Prime Minister Narendra Modi along accompanied with President Amit Shah and Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, J.P. Nadda, Smriti Irani and Thaawar Chand Gehlot campaigned to woo the electorate.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also campaigned for the elections in the hilly state.