The bypolls to the two Assembly segments in Himachal Pradesh slated for October 21 will be a test for Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur as the ruling BJP looks to not only retain the seats but also to increase the margin.
By-elections to the Pachhad and the Dharamshala Assembly seats were necessitated after sitting BJP MLAs Suresh Kashyap and Kishan Kapoor were elected to the Lok Sabha this May.
Electioneering for both the seats ended on Saturday at 5 pm.
Voting will be held on October 21 from 8 am to 5 pm and the results will be declared on October 24.
The Dharamshala seat will see a direct contest between Vishal Nehriya of the BJP and Vijay Inder Karan of the Congress. Both are contesting elections for the first time.
On the other hand, a triangular contest is expected on the Pachhad constituency (SC) among Reena Kashyap of the BJP, Gangu Ram Musafir of the Congress and Dayal Pyari, a BJP rebel contesting as Independent.
Former Sirmour Zila Parishad chairperson Pyari was an aspirant of the BJP ticket but when the party fielded former Zila Parishad member Kashyap, she decided to contest as an Independent candidate.
Musafir (74) has been contesting Vidhan Sabha elections from the Pachhad seat since 1982. He has won seven times and lost twice.
He was elected as an Independent in 1982 and subsequently won on a Congress ticket in 1985, 1990, 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2007. He lost in 2012 and 2017.
A total of 202 polling stations have been set up 113 in Pachhad and 89 in Dharamshala, a state election official said.
An auxiliary polling station has been set up at the Dari old age home to facilitate 24 elderly inmates to cast their votes in Dharamshala, Additional Chief Electoral Officer (Additional CEO) Rupali Thakur said.
As many as 82,137 and 74,487 voters may cast their votes in Dharamshala and Pachhad respectively, she added.
Thirteen polling stations in Pachhad and 10 in Dharamshala have been identified as vulnerable, Thakur said, adding that four polling stations in Dharamshala are critical.
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