Over 50 lakh voters in Himachal Pradesh will exercise their franchise on Saturday to elect the 68-member Assembly in the single-phase poll that began at 8 a.m. and will continue till 5 p.m.
"Despite the cold weather and minor hiccups at polling stations at some places, there was no report of any delay in starting the poll process," an electoral officer told IANS.
Out of 412 candidates in the fray, 24 are women and 388 men. A total of 55,92,828 voters will elect their representatives. Of them, 193,106 are first-time voters in the age of 18-19 years.
Meanwhile, greeting the first-timers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday appealed to the voters in Himachal Pradesh to participate in the election process in the state.
"Today is the polling day for all the Assembly seats in Himachal Pradesh. I request all the voters of Devbhoomi to participate with full enthusiasm in this festival of democracy and create a new record of voting," PM Modi tweeted.
"My special wishes to all the youth of the state who will be voting for the first time today," he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah urged the voters of the state to elect a "strong government" by voting in large numbers.
"Only a strong and corruption-free government can fulfill the aspirations of the people of Devbhoomi by keeping Himachal Pradesh at the forefront of development. I appeal to the voters of Himachal, especially mothers, sisters and the youth, to elect a strong government by voting in maximum numbers for the golden future of the state," said Shah.
There are 121,409 voters above 80 years, while 56,501 others with disabilities. The main contest is between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress.
Facing strong winds of anti-incumbency, the BJP leadership led by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur seems to be banking on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "charisma", while the main Opposition Congress is eyeing to return to the helm by wooing its 2.5-lakh strong government employees, the state's crucial vote bank, with a promise of restoring the old pension scheme.
The senior leadership of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is in the fray for the first time in the Assembly polls, has been missing from the state with its leaders focusing on strengthening its vote bank in another poll-bound Gujarat.
In the 2017 Assembly polls, the BJP had won 44 seats, the Congress 21, the CPM one and Independents two.
The voter turnout was 75.57 per cent. The counting of votes cast on Saturday will be held on December 8.