Shimla/New Delhi: Counting of votes for the Assembly polls began on Thursday in Himachal Pradesh where the ruling BJP is hoping to retain the power.
The results of the high-stakes elections will also reveal whether the BJP’s all-out personalised campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to buck the ‘alternative government’ trend has worked or not.
For the opposition Congress, however, a victory in Himachal is much-needed for its revival, as it has seen a spate of electoral losses in the last few years.
Himachal Pradesh has not returned any incumbent government to power in the last nearly four decades.
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Most of the exit polls have predicted an edge for the ruling BJP in the hill state in the closely contested elections.
The Congress has expressed confidence in the party winning the assembly polls, saying the voters will decide on the fundamental issues of price rise, joblessness, the old pension scheme, and other challenges of life they have been facing.
The opposition party which holds power of its own only in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, hopes that the party’s revival will start from Himachal Pradesh.
The results will also throw up if the entrant Aam Aadmi Party, which carried out a muted campaign for the November 12 elections, has been able to make any mark in the hill state in its bid to expand its base.
Counting of votes began at 8 am at 68 counting halls spread across 59 locations throughout the state with the taking up of postal ballots first.
After a gap of 30 minutes from the commencement of counting of postal ballot papers, counting of votes for electronic voting machines (EVMs) will commence at 8.30 am.
The EVM counting will continue irrespective of the stage of postal ballot counting, the Election Commission said.
The commission has made elaborate arrangements for the counting of votes with more than 10,000 security personnel, returning officers, and other support staff overseeing the counting process for the 68 assembly constituencies in Himachal Pradesh.
Himachal Pradesh’s Chief Electoral Officer Maneesh Garg said subject to availability of space, a maximum of 14 counting tables and a minimum of eight counting tables will be placed in the counting halls, with a separate table to accommodate nearly 500 postal ballots.
There will also be separate tables for scanning of electronically transmitted postal ballots linked to computers for counting.
About 76.44 per cent of voters had exercised their franchise in the assembly polls held on November 12.
As many as 52,859 (87 per cent approximately) postal ballots were received by December 6 by the returning officers from all over the state – an increase of 17 per cent as compared to 2017. A total of 45,126 postal ballots were received in 2017.
The counting trends will be available on Voter Helpline App and on results.eci.govt.in.