The canvassing for the elections to the four of the five municipal corporations in Himachal Pradesh — being considered a forerunner of the Assembly election next year — came to an end Monday evening. The civic bodies of Dharamshala, Mandi, Solan and Palampur are going to polls on Wednesday.
According to the state election commission, a total of 279 candidates are in fray from 64 wards in the four cities. The highest number of candidates are in the age group of 31-40 years (37 per cent), followed by 41-50 years (24 per cent), and 21-30 years (20 per cent). Only three per cent candidates are aged above 60 years.
Women comprise 55 per cent of the contesting candidates, and around two-thirds of the candidates represent various reserved categories. A third of the candidates are matriculates, 23 per cent are graduates, 22 per cent have completed senior secondary education, 16 per cent are post graduates and 6.5 per cent have studies below matriculation.
Economic status-wise, around 72 per cent of the candidates fall in the above poverty line (APL) category, 4.3 per cent are below the poverty line (BPL), nine per cent are non-tax payers and 14.3 per cent are tax payers.
Contrary to most of the previous municipal elections in Himachal, the polls this time are being held on party symbols. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP), the ruling party in the state, and main opposition party Indian National Congress (INC), are the main contenders and have fielded candidates in most of the wards. Among others, the Aam Admi Party has fielded candidates in 43 out of 64 wards, while the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has fielded only one candidate in a ward in Mandi.
Himachal only had two MCs of Shimla and Dharamshala until the state cabinet decided in October last year to upgrade the municipal councils of Palampur, Mandi and Solan into municipal corporations by including adjoining areas.
The Palampur and Solan Assembly constituencies are represented by the Congress while BJP represents Mandi and Dharamshala. The civic elections are being viewed as forerunner of next year’s Assembly elections, and leaders from both the parties have been campaigning hard in recent days.
For Congress, the campaigning was led by state president Kuldeep Singh Rathore and Leader of Opposition Mukesh Agnihotri along with other party leaders such as Sudhir Sharma, Kaul Singh Thakur, GS Bali, and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu. Party veteran Virbhadra Singh was scheduled to campaign in Solan on Monday but could not go there due to health reasons.
For BJP, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur addressed a number of rallies in the four cities. Rakesh Pathania, Bikram Singh, Mahender Singh and Rajeev Bindal, too addresed several public meetings.
Polling on Wednesday will be held from 8am to 4pm, and the counting of votes will be taken up immediately after the close of the poll at the municipal headquarters. Along with the four MCs, elections are also being simultaneously held in six newly-created nagar panchayats in the state, namely Chirgaon, Nerwa, Ani, Nirmand, Amb and Kandaghat.