Uttarakhand recorded a turnout of 68% till 5 p.m. in the Assembly elections on Wednesday. Voting was held across the difficult hill terrain and the agrarian plain regions. The polling was peaceful.
“The final turnout could cross 70%, but the numbers will be released only tomorrow [on Thursday],” Chief Electoral Officer Radha Raturi said.
“If we get a 70% turnout, it will be a record-breaking turnout for a hill State like Uttarakhand,” Ms. Raturi said.
With 66.85% in the 2012 Assembly elections, 59.5% in 2007 and 54.34% in 2002, Wednesday’s turnout was a record.
“Data till 5 p.m. show that the polling percentage in all 13 districts has crossed the 2012 record,” Ms. Raturi said.
The hills witnessed a high turnout, especially Uttarkashi district with 73%. Nainital, Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar districts followed with 70%. Votes were cast for 628 candidates across 10,685 booths, of which 458 were set up in snow-bound areas, where low temperatures and the difficult terrain remained a challenge for voters and polling officials.
BSP in contention
The 20 seats in Haridwar and Udham Singh Nagar are the only areas in the State where the BSP is a player.
With 6 lakh Muslim voters and 4.5 lakh Dalit voters in the two districts, the BSP has made it a triangular contest for the Congress and the BJP.
With Chief Minister Harish Rawat contesting in Haridwar Rural in Haridwar and Kichha in Udham Singh Nagar, the caste-based division of votes prevalent in the two agrarian districts could have a bearing on the result.
In the remaining 49 seats of Kumaon and Garhwal, barring the Karnaprayag seat where polling will be held on March 9, Independent candidates hold the key in 12 to 15 seats.
The 13 seats where Congress rebels were fielded as BJP candidates is keenly watched as the 13 party-hoppers in Narendranagar, Kotdwar, Roorkee, Khanpur, Bazpur, Nainital, Raipur, Chaubattakhal, Yamunotri, Sitarganj, Jaspur, Kedarnath and Someshwar remain in the spotlight. At least eight among them colluded with the BJP last year in an attempt to topple the Rawat government, leading to political instability as the State was put under President’s Rule.
On Wednesday, the voting was marred by minor skirmishes outside a few polling stations. The polling process was conducted peacefully, Ms. Raturi said.
A few electronic voting machines were replaced as they developed snags, she said.