Counting of votes begin in Himachal

Counting of votes for all 68 assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh started at 8 a.m. Thursday, Election Commission officials said here.

The fate of 459 candidates, including 106 independents, will be decided during the day. Voting was held Nov 4.

Nearly 74 percent of the 4.6 million electors exercised their franchise. This was an all-time record for assembly polls in the hill state.

The main contest is between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress.
The heavyweights in the battle include Congress leaders Virbhadra Singh, Vidya Stokes and Kaul Singh and BJP's Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, former health minister Rajeev Bindal and Public Health Minister Ravinder Ravinder Ravi.

The Himachal Lokhit Party (HLP), formed under the leadership of BJP rebel and four-time former MP Maheshwar Singh, and the CPI-M are giving a tough fight to both main political parties on more than five seats.

The NCP and the Trinamool Congress contested for the first time in the state. In 2007, the BJP won 41 seats, the Congress 23, the Bahujan Samaj Party one seat and independents three seats. The BSP legislator later joined the BJP.

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