Shimla, Nov 3 (IANS) Himachal Pradesh is all set to vote Sunday to elect a new 68-member assembly, with a close contest in the offing between arch rivals Congress and the ruling BJP.
A record number of 459 candidates, including 27 women, are in the fray, an election official said Saturday.
Officials are expecting heavy polling as the weather is expected to be mainly clear and sunny. The polling starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.
The Himachal Lok Morcha, an alliance of Himachal Lokhit Party, formed under the leadership of BJP rebel and four-time former MP Maheshwar Singh, and the Left are contesting 58 seats.
The HLP is contesting on 36 seats, the CPI-M 15 and the CPI seven, making the contest triangular in more than five seats.
The Bahajun Samaj Party, which won one seat in 2007, has fielded 66 candidates, followed by the Trinamool Congress (25), Lok Janshakti Party and Swabhiman Party (16 each), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Samajwadi Party (12 each) and Shiv Sena (4).
The NCP and Trinamool are a first-time entrant in the hill state. There are 105 independents in the fray.
The Election Commission has set up 7,253 polling stations for 46,08,359 electors, including 23,76,587 men.
Of these, 1,317 have been declared sensitive and 763 hypersensitive -- an official euphemism to indicate possible trouble spots.
As many as 11,000 electronic voting machines will be deployed.
The Hikkam polling station, located at an altitude of over 15,000 ft in Lahaul and Spiti district, is the highest polling station. It has 325 voters.
Sullah constituency in Kangra district has the highest number of voters (88,971), while Lahaul-Spiti constituency has the lowest (22,315).
Polling officials and EVMs were airlifted to landlocked Bara Bhangal hamlet in Baijnath constituency in Kangra Friday where 45 voters, including 19 women, will exercise their franchise.
Helicopter services have also been made available for tribal areas of Pangi, Keylong and Kaza.
More than 60 companies of central paramilitary forces, including the ITBP and CRPF, have been deployed to ensure free and fair elections.
Votes for the election will be counted Dec 20.
In 2007, the BJP won 41 seats, the Congress 23, the BSP one and independents three. The lone BSP legislator later joined the BJP.