Shimla: Over 67 per cent of more than 55 lakh voters in Himachal Pradesh turned out on Saturday to elect 68 members of the BJP-ruled Assembly in the single-phase polling, officials said.
The percentage would rise as voters were lined up as the polling closed at 5 p.m.
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. It rose 18 per cent by 11 a.m. and 38 per cent by 1 p.m.
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 five-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”.
BJP national president Jagat Parkash Nadda, who cast his vote in Bilaspur district, said the stakes are too high for the BJP.
“We are winning the state by breaking the tradition of no government repeating is the challenge that it faces. The BJP went into the polls banking more on PM Narendra Modi, considering the emotional connect he shares with Himachal, where he remained BJP in charge for seven years,” he said.
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.
At minus 10-degree Celsius, Tashigang, the world’s highest polling station at a height of 15,256 feet in Lahaul and Spiti district, saw a 100 per cent turnout.
Tashigang, a village some 34 km from Kaza, is the highest settlement in the Spiti Valley close to the India-Tibet border.
The village had 52 voters, most of them reached the polling station donning traditional attire.
“I am participating in the election every year to keep the democracy alive,” 78-year-old Sonam Dolma told the media.
First-timer voter Tenzin Nodan said she was enthusiastic about casting her first vote. “For me, voting was very important.”
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,” he tweeted.
“My special wishes to all the youth of the state who will be voting for the first time today.”
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.
Counting of the ballots will take place on December 8.