Voting Ends In HP With Record 74% Voter Turnout

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Shimla: Voting closed on Thursday in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, where the BJP is seeking to dislodge the Virbhadra Singh-led Congress government on the issue of corruption while deflecting attacks by rivals on demonetisation and GST.

Sixty sitting MLAs were among the 337 candidates fighting for a seat in the 68-member legislative assembly of Himachal Pradesh, one of few states under Congress rule. The results along with those of the BJP-ruled Gujarat will be a bellwether of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity.

As many as 7,525 polling booths were set up and 37,605 personnel deputed for poll duty in the state, which has a total of 50,25,941 voters. Voting for the Assembly, which started at 8am, came to an end at 5pm, but continued in some booths were people were still waiting to cast their votes.

A total of 17,850 personnel of police and Home Guards and 65 companies of central paramilitary force had also been deployed. To ensure free and fair polls, other officials, including 29 general, three police and 22 expenditure observers as well as 1,561 micro observers were believed to have been deployed across the state.

Chief Minister and Congress leader Virbhadra Singh, 10 ministers, eight chief parliamentary secretaries, Deputy Speaker Jagat Singh Negi, former chief minister and BJP leader Prem Kumar Dhumal and over a dozen former ministers are among those who have thrown their hat in the ring.

The ruling Congress and the BJP, led by Dhumal, contested all 68 seats. The BSP fought for 42 seats, the CPI(M) 14, Swabhiman Party and Lok Gathbandhan Party six each and the CPI three. There are also 112 independents in the fray.

Dharamsala has the maximum number of candidates at 12. Both Virbhadra Singh and Dhumal have moved out of their old constituencies. While the Congress leader contested from Arki, the BJP leader chose Sujanpur.

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