Shimla: The hill state of Himachal Pradesh goes to polls tomorrow with traditional rivals, the Congress and the BJP locking horns in all 68 constituencies where 337 candidates including 62 MLAs are in the fray.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 10 ministers, eight Chief Parliamentary secretaries, Deputy Speaker Jagat Singh Negi, former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and over a dozen former ministers are among those who have thrown their hat in the ring.
The ruling Congress led by the chief minister and the BJP led with former chief minister Dhumal are contesting all 68 seats while the BSP is contesting 42 seats, followed by the CPI(M) 14, Swabhiman Party and Lok Gathbandhan Party six each and the CPI-3.
The 12-days high-voltage campaign, which came to an end yesterday, saw over 450 rallies by star campaigners of the BJP and the Congress including Prime minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah who addressed seven and six rallies respectively.
Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi addressed three rallies.
Corruption was the main focus of the BJP campaign with the party training its guns at Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, while the Congress hit out at the BJP over the issue of GST and demonetisation.
There is straight contest only in one constituency (Jhanduta) while the maximum number of 12 candidates is in fray in Dharamsala.
Both Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Dhumal have shifted their constituencies and are contesting from Arki and Sujanpur.
There are 19 women in the fray including six fielded by the BJP and three by the Congress while seven rebels each of BJP and Congress are also contesting the polls.
At present, the Congress and the BJP have 35 and 28 MLAs respectively in the 68-member House besides four independents while one seat is vacant.
A total of 50,25,941 voters are eligible to cast their vote.As many as 7,525 polling booths have been set up in the state and 37,605 polling personnel have been deputed for poll duty.
Web-casting would be used in 2,307 polling stations in the state for live monitoring of polling activities in the state by ECI and polling would be held from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm, the CEO said.
He said the state has 100 per cent Photo Identity Card (EPIC) holders and 7525 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) are being used.
VVPAT machines are being used for the first time in this Vidhan Sabha Election and 10 per cent of total EVMs and VVPATs have been kept in reserve.
He said 983 polling stations had been declared vulnerable and 399 as critical to ensure free and fair elections in the State.
The BJP won majority on its own in the 2007 assembly polls for the first time and won 41 seats while the Congress won 23 seats and BSP and Independents three and one seat respectively.
The BJP and the Congress polled 43.78 and 39.54 per cent votes.
Ahead of the 2012 polls, BJP dissidents floated the Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP) which won only one seat but cornered 4.52 per cent votes.
The Congress and the BJP won 36 and 26 seats polling 43.21 and 38.83 per cent votes. Independents candidates polled 15.87 votes and five independents were elected.
This time there is no third force and as Congress and the BJP have been returning to power alternately since 1985, the BJP is claiming that it is their turn to stage a comeback.