SHIMLA: The counting of votes for Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh began at 8 am on Thursday. In Himachal, there are 68 counting halls in 59 locations across the state. The elections for 68 assembly seats in the state were held on November 12 and around 75.6 per cent polling percentage was recorded. The hill state witnessed an intense campaign with BJP trying to return to power for a second consecutive term and Congress backing on its '10 guarantees' that the party listed out in its manifesto to take them home.
The emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party as the third major political force in the state has intensified the electoral battle. Besides these three, parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India (CPI) and Rashtriya Devbhumi Party (RDP) are also in the fray.
Both BJP and Congress have claimed victory in the state which has had a tradition of changing governments for the past several years. If BJP wins then it will beat the anti-incumbency and change the trend of the alternate government in the state. The Election Commission has made adequate preparations for the counting of votes.
There will be 68 counting halls in 59 locations across the state. Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Maneesh Garg said 10,000 duty staff including the security personnel have been deployed as part of security arrangements. He said teams of returning officers and assistant returning officers have also been deployed to ensure smooth counting process.
He said that depending upon the availability of the space, a maximum of 14 counting tables and a minimum of eight counting tables would be available in the counting halls. He said that there will be a separate table for nearly 500 postal ballots.
Besides, there will also be separate tables for scanning of electronically transmitted postal ballots linked to computers for counting. CEO said that the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for the tribal Lahaul Spiti were shifted to Bhuntar in Kullu and the counting for Lahaul Spiti assembly segment will take place at Bhuntar.
Similarly, for the tribal Bharmour assembly segment, the counting will take place in Chamba and for the Kinnaur assembly segment the counting will take place in Reckong-peo. "We have also held meetings with the representatives of the political parties at state, district and sub-division levels already and have asked them to depute their counting agents for ensuring transparency," he said adding that no candidate or any other person will be allowed within a perimeter of 100 metres from the counting centres except those having a valid identity card/pass issued by the Election Commission of India (ECI).
Out of the postal ballots issued to employees deployed on election duty, 52,859 postal ballots were received back by December 6, 2022 (approximately 87 per cent) by the returning officers all over the state, Maneesh Garg had said on Wednesday. According to the exit polls predicted on Monday, BJP has an edge over Congress in a tough fight in Himachal Pradesh. While most exit polls predicted that BJP will likely retain Himachal Pradesh, one exit poll predicted Congress to lead in the sweepstakes to form government in the hill state. Notably, in the 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP formed the government by winning 44 seats while Congress secured 21 seats.