Shimla: Polling for 68 Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh began at 8 am amid tight security arrangements on Saturday.
A total of 55,92,828 electors who will cast their votes till 5 pm today will decide the fate of 412 candidates who are in the fray.
Out of the total number of electorates, 27,37,845 are women, 28,54,945 men and 38 were third-gender. This time, the representation of woman candidates is 24.
The high-voltage campaigning by political parties had ended on November 10, following which it's up to the electorate of Himachal Pradesh to decide the political fate of the candidates today.
The fight is in between the ruling BJP in the state which is looking to retain power ditching the trend of the alternate party coming to power every five years since 1982, and Congress which is banking on its '10 guarantees' that the party listed out in its manifesto to take them home. Aam Aadmi Party is in line looking to leave a mark in the state and thus contesting on all the 68 seats alone.
The challenge for the ruling BJP will be to buck anti-incumbency and change the trend of the alternate government.
Besides these three parties, parties like Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Rashtriya Devbhumi Party (RDP) are in the fray.
BJP brought star campaigners like Union Home Minister Amit Shah, party chief Jagat Prakash Nadda and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for the polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also campaigned in the hill state. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also hit the ground along with other top leaders of the party including Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel.
According to Election Commission, a total of 7,881 polling stations have been set up for today's polls. The Kangra district has a maximum of 1,625 polling stations while the Lahaul-Spiti district has the lowest 92. There are 7,235 polling stations in rural and 646 polling stations in urban areas. Besides, three auxiliary polling stations have also been set up at Sidhbari (Dharamshala), Bara Bhangal (Baijnath) and Dhillon (Kasauli).
Among the key contests include Seraj where Chief Minister Jairam Thakur is contesting against Congress' Chetram Thakur and AAP candidate Gita Nand Thakur. Mahinder Rana is the CPI-M candidate.
Congress state chief Mukesh Agnihotri who contesting his fifth election from the Haroli assembly segment in the Una district where BJP has fielded Ramkumar and AAP pitted Ravinder Pal Singh Mann.
In Hamirpur, BJP's Narinder Thakur is the key challenger against Congress' Pushpendra Verma and AAP's Shushil Kumar Surroch.
Congress fielded Vikramaditya Singh, son of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh from Shimla Rural against BJP's Ravi Mehta and AAP's Prem Thakur.
In Mandi, the battle is between BJP candidate Anil Sharma and Congress' Champa Thakur. AAP fielded Shyam Lal in the seat.
The Shimla Urban is among the most talked about seats this time as BJP gave a ticket to Sanjay Sood, who runs a tea shop in the city.
Meanwhile, 67 companies of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) comprising 6,700 personnel and 15 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) companies have been deployed for holding free and fair Assembly polls in Himachal Pradesh.
Besides this, 50,000 government employees have been put on poll duty. As many as 25,000 police officers are also stationed across the state.
Teams from the National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) and the State Disaster Relief Force (SDRF) comprising 800 personnel have also been posted.
In 2017, BJP swept the Himachal polls, bagging 44 of the total 68 seats while Congress managed to get just 21 seats.