Gung-ho about voting at Himachal’s highest polling station

May 12th, 2009 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party By Vishal Gulati
Hikkam (Himachal Pradesh), May 12 (IANS) Residents of tribal villages in Himachal Pradesh’s picturesque Spiti valley are enthusiastic about casting their vote at one of the country’s highest polling stations Wednesday despite snowfall making the region even colder.

Around 321 voters are set to exercise their franchise at Hikkam in Lahaul and Spiti district, the highest polling station in Himachal Pradesh located at an altitude of over 15,000 feet. It is part of the Mandi parliamentary constituency.

“We are very much excited about participating in the electoral process. We will be among the first voters to reach the polling station,” said Ram Singh Negi, a retired government employee settled in this village.

“I know we are the privileged lot,” he added.

The entire district, populated mainly by tribals, remains cut off from the rest of the country for more than six months in the year owing to heavy snowfall. The climatic conditions of the landlocked district are harsh as much of the land falls under a cold desert.

“Monday’s snow has failed to dampen our spirit to participate in the electoral process. Like the last elections (2007 assembly polls), this polling station would again record the highest polling in the district,” said Sapna Negi, a law graduate.

As per records of the state election department, the Hikkam polling station had recorded highest (83.3 percent) turnout in the district during the assembly elections.

“The Hikkam polling station would serve 321 voters of Hikkam, Komic and Langcha villages,” Himachal Pradesh’s chief electoral officer Anil Khachi told IANS.

“Polling is a difficult exercise in the tribal districts of Lahaul and Spiti, Kinnaur and Chamba as one-third of the polling booths are located at altitudes above 13,000 feet. The polling material has reached all the polling stations. In some of the stations, men and material are airlifted from district headquarters,” said Khachi.

“All the polling stations in our district are connected by road. Moreover, the road link to the Lahaul valley through the Rohtang Pass opened again last (Monday) evening for small and emergency vehicles. People who migrated to nearby districts during winter can now come for voting,” Lahaul and Spiti Deputy Commissioner C. Paul Rasu said.

The Hikkam polling station is part of the sprawling Mandi constituency that covers almost two-thirds of the hill state. Congress leader and five-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh and the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) three-time MP Maheshwar Singh are the main contestants in Mandi.

Virbhadra Singh’s wife Pratibha Singh is the sitting MP. In 2004, she defeated Maheshwar Singh by 66,566 votes.

The hill state has 4,604,832 voters. The highest number of voters - 1,199,820 - is in the Kangra parliamentary constituency, followed by Hamirpur (1,187,704), Mandi (1,111,787) and Shimla (1,105,521).

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