The bypolls to two assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh will be held on Monday and all preparations have been made for the voting, a state election official said.
By-elections to Pachhad and Dharamshala Assembly seats were necessitated after sitting BJP MLAs Suresh Kashyap and Kishan Kapoor, respectively, were elected to the Lok Sabha this May.
Electioneering for both the seats ended on Saturday at 5 pm. Polling will be held from 8 am to 5 pm and the counting will be held on October 24.
A total of 202 polling stations — 113 in Pachhad and 89 in Dharamshala — have been set up, 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 are eligible to exercise their franchise 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.
The bypolls to the two Assembly segments will be a test for Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur as the ruling BJP looks to not only retain the seats but also increase the margin. The opposition Congress is hopeful to win the two seats.
The Dharamshala seat will see a direct contest between Vishal Nehriya of the BJP and Vijay Inder Karan of the Congress. Both are contesting election for the first time.
On the other hand, a triangular contest is expected on the Pachhad (SC) constituency 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 Reena Kashyap, she decided to contest as an independent candidate.
In the last Assembly elections held in December two years ago, Suresh Kashyap (30,243 votes) defeated his nearest rival former minister Musafir with a margin of 6,427 votes in Pachhad.
In Dharamshala, the victory margin of Kishan Kapoor (26,050 votes) of the BJP over Sudhir Sharma (23,053 votes) of the Congress was of 2,997 votes in 2017.
Musafir (74) has been contesting assembly 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.