About 10 per cent polling in HP in first 2 hours

Polling in the hill state of Himachal Pradesh started on a slow note with about 10 per cent of the voters exercising their franchise in the first two hours today.

Polling to elect the 68-member Assembly is likely to pick up as the day progresses, said election officials.

“Aleast seven EVMs were replaced due to malfunctioning, four of them in Kullu and one each on Shimla and Bilaspur,” Himachal's chief electoral officer Narinder Chauhan said.

The electorate comprises 46.08 lakh voters, including 22.31 lakh women. Counting of votes will take place on December 20. As many as 7253 polling stations have been set up, including in Hikkim in Lahaul and Spiti at a height of over 15,000 feet.

In all, 459 candidates are in the fray for the election, 27 of them women. In the 2007 poll, the BJP had won 41 as against the Congress 23, while the independents and the BSP had bagged 3 and one seats respectively. The poll percentage in the last election was 71.61 per cent.

The main contest is between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress which are contesting all the 68 seats. Led by chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, the incumbent the BJP is hoping to script history in Himachal by going the Punjab way, where the Akali-BJP combine returned to power.

Himachal has never repeated a government since 1977. Congress leader and five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh is schedule to cast his ballot at his native place in Rampur town, some 120 km from here, while the chief minister will exercise his franchise in Hamirpur.

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