The Weekend Leader - Himachal by-polls: 25% polling recorded till noon

Himachal by-polls: 25% polling recorded till noon




An estimated 25 per cent of the 15.49 lakh electorate exercised their franchise till 12 p.m. in the by-polls to the Mandi Parliamentary and three Assembly seats on Saturday, the Election Commission said.

The counting of ballots will be taken up on November 2.

Long queues of electors, especially women and youths, were seen across polling centres. At some of booths, voters started reaching even before the process began at 8 a.m.

"There has been no report of any delay in starting the poll process," an electoral officer told IANS.

A total of 15.49 lakh voters will decide the fate of 18 candidates in the fray for the Mandi Lok Sabha and Jubbal-Kotkhai, Arki and Fatehpur Assembly seats.

The BJP has pitted Brigadier Khushal Thakur (retired), a decorated officer who played a crucial role in the 1999 Kargil war, against Congress' Pratibha Singh, a two-time MP from Mandi.

The main contest in Mandi is between the BJP and the Congress.

The Mandi seat -- a prestigious one for Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur as it falls in his home district -- fell vacant with the death of two-time BJP MP Ram Swaroop Sharma, who defeated Congress candidate Ashray Sharma, the grandson of former Telecommunications Minister Sukh Ram in his electoral debut, with a record margin.

The Mandi constituency, which includes Kullu, Mandi and some areas of Chamba and Shimla districts, besides the tribal-dominated Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti, is one of the biggest in the country.

The Jubbal-Kotkhai Assembly by-poll is seeing a keen triangular contest.

The presence of BJP rebel Chetan Bragta, son of former Horticulture Minister Narinder Bragta, in the fray as an Independent candidate is bound to make a dent in the ruling party's vote bank.

Two-time former BJP legislator Govind Ram Sharma is another disgruntled BJP leader, who has not campaigned for his party candidate Rattan Pal.

The Fatehpur Assembly is all set to witness a triangular fight between Congress candidate Bhawani Pathania, BJP nominee Baldev Thakur and Independent candidate Rajan Sushant.

A total of 2,361 polling centres have been set up for the Mandi constituency, 141 in Fatehpur, 154 in Arki and 136 in Jubbal-Kotkhai.

The highest polling station has been set up at 15,226 feet in Tashigong village in Lahaul-Spiti district, part of the Mandi constituency - IANS

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