Shimla: Nearly 18 per cent of over 55 lakh voters in Himachal Pradesh turned out on Saturday in the first three hours to elect 68 members of the BJP-ruled Assembly in the single phase polling, officials said.
Women turned out in strength in rural areas despite cold climatic conditions in the morning, said poll officials.
Only 4 per cent voting was recorded in first hour of polling. There were minor hiccups as electronic voting machines developed snags at some places.
BJP leader and Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, his wife and two daughters cast their votes at a polling booth in Seraj in Mandi district. From Seraj, the four-time lawmaker is in fray again.
After casting his vote, Thakur urged the voters to come out in big numbers and enthusiastically participate in the “festival of democracy”.
Ninety-year-old Nazrim Mani and his 87-year-old wife cast their votes at a model polling booth in a school that was opened in 1890 in Kalpa village in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh, election officials said.
Government Primary School in Kalpa, some 275 km from the state capital in the Kinnaur Assembly constituency, was the first school in the district.
He flashed his wrinkled inked finger after voting.
After casting the vote, Mani appealed to the voters in the state to participate in this festival of democracy with full enthusiasm.
Greeting the first-timers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the voters to participate in the election process.
“Today is the polling day for all the Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh. I request all the voters of Devbhoomi to participate with full enthusiasm in this festival of democracy and create a new record of voting,” PM Modi tweeted.
“My special wishes to all the youth of the state who will be voting for the first time today,” he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah urged the voters of the state to elect a “strong government” by voting in large numbers.
“Only a strong and corruption-free government can fulfill the aspirations of the people of Devbhoomi by keeping Himachal Pradesh at the forefront of development. I appeal to the voters of Himachal, especially mothers, sisters and the youth, to elect a strong government by voting in maximum numbers for the golden future of the state,” said Shah.
Of the 412 candidates in the fray, 24 are women and 388 men.
A total of 55,92,828 voters will elect their representatives. Of them, 193,106 are first-time voters in the age of 18-19 years.
There are 121,409 voters above 80 years, while 56,501 voters with disabilities.
The main contest is between the BJP and the Congress.
Facing strong winds of anti-incumbency, the state BJP leadership seems to be banking on Prime Minister Modi’s “charisma”, while the main Opposition Congress is eyeing to return to the helm by wooing its 2.5-lakh strong government employees, the state’s crucial vote bank, with a promise of restoring the old pension scheme.
About 30,000 security personnel, including 67 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and over 11,500 state police personnel have been deployed for peaceful conduct of polling.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, the BJP had won 44 seats, the Congress 21, the CPM one and Independents two. The voter turnout in the 2017 poll was 75.57 per cent.
The counting of votes for Saturday election will be held on December 8.