The election to all 68 constituencies in Himachal Pradesh began at 8 am on Thursday with top politicians including Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his arch-rival and BJP's chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal coming out to cast vote in morning. The state recorded 55% voting till 3 pm. This time's election is a litmus test for Virbhadra, a seven-time Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) and five-time Member of Parliament, who's apparently fighting his last poll. It remains to be seen whether the 83-year-old veteran politician is able buck the anti-incumbency trend, an unlikely phenomenon that has not happened in HP in the past 30 years.
LIVE UPDATES HIMACHAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION 2017
6.30pm: With over 75 per cent polling recorded in the Himachal Pradesh assembly poll, this year's voting is higher than 73.51 per cent voter turnout in 2012 election.
5.30pm: Polling closes for the assembly elections. Now only those standing in queues are being allowed to cast their votes.
4.30pm: 64.8 per cent polling recorded in Himachal Pradesh till 4pm, reported The Indian Express.
3.22pm: India's oldest voter Shyam Saran Negi, who turned 100-year-old this July, cast his vote in Kinnaur district. Negi hails from Kalpa in Kinnaur, and has voted in every General Election since 1951.
2.41pm: Senior Congress leader Vidya Stokes has cast her vote at a polling booth in Barubag, in Shimla, reports ANI.
1:00 pm: By 12:15pm, the Kinnaur district in Himachal Pradesh recorded its highest ever polling percentage of 35 per cent.
12.20pm: Union health minister JP Nadda casting his vote in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh.Union health minister JP Nadda casting his vote in Bilaspur district of Himachal Pradesh.
12pm: Faulty voting machines delayed polling in Sirmaur district by 15-20 minutes this morning, reports PTI.
मतदान हमारा अधिकार ही नही, हमारा कर्तव्य है।- Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) November 9, 2017
हमारा वोट , हमारा भविष्य बदल सकता है। pic.twitter.com/dmNpkcPO1K
11:00 am: BJP leader and the party's chief ministerial candidate Prem Kumar Dhumal, along with his family, at his village in Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh.
लोकतंत्र के यज्ञ में आहुति दी।✌🏻 pic.twitter.com/xDHSSamWBF- Prem Kumar Dhumal (@DhumalHP) 9 November 2017
10: 20am: In the morning, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also tweeted, urging people to participate in the "festival of democracy".
आज देवभूमि हिमाचल प्रदेश में मतदान का दिन है। मेरी विनती है कि सभी मतदाता लोकतंत्र के महापर्व में भाग लें और भारी संख्या में मतदान करें। Urging people of Himachal Pradesh to vote in recrod numbers.- Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) 9 November 2017
10am: Virbhadra, in his Facebook message on Wednesday, said that he hoped "the people of Himachal would support Congress on November 9, and will take the progress wave forward". He added he's confident that the people of Arki constituency in Solan, from where he is fighting against the BJP's greenhorn Ratan Singh Pal, would give him a "chance to work for the welfare of people".
Infighting in the state Congress party coupled with anti-incumbency and the Modi wave could hinder his chances of leading the party to victory. The absence of veteran leaders like Vidya Stokes from the poll field has also played in the favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
An opinion poll conducted by India Today-Axis My India has indicated that the BJP would register victory in the Assembly election. The survey predicts the party would win 43 to 47 of the total 68 seats; the majority mark is 35. On the other hand, the Congress could bag 21 to 25 seats, says the opinion poll. Other parties, including independents, are likely to win just two seats.
Leaving no stone unturned, the saffron party this time held several rallies of its star campaigners including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, who addressed seven and six rallies, respectively. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi also held three rallies in the state.
In the 2012, the Congress had won 36 seats under Virbhadra's leadership, while the BJP, which fought under Dhumal's leadership, could garner just 26 seats.
Virbhadra holds a reputation of a remarkable leader in the state but corruption charges against him and his family members and his inability to control some of his party critiques may fade his chances of becoming the chief minister fifth time.
The most keenly watched contest in the election is between his son Vikramaditya Singh, who's a first timer, and former Himachal Pradesh University professor Pramod Sharma, a one-time Virbhadra loyalist who's contesting on the BJP ticket from Shimla Rural. The prestigious constituency was earlier held by Virbhadra himself, who this time is fighting from Arki constituency; the CM had earlier claimed he wanted to contest from a seat the party had not won before. Dhumal is fighting from Sujanpur seat instead of Hamirpur.
There are 19 women in the fray, including six from the BJP and three from the Congress.