A voter turnout of over 70 per cent was recorded in the first round of the three-phase Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) polls in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday, Electoral Officer Sanjeev Mahajan said. Over 63 per cent voters of two panchayats in Kaza block in the tribal district of Lahaul-Spiti braved extreme cold weather conditions at a temperature of minus seven degrees Celsius to cast their votes, a district official said.
While 1,227 panchayats went to polls on Sunday, the remaining two phases are slated to be held on January 19 and 21. Of the 3,615 gram panchayats in the state, 3,583 will go to polls, barring 32 in Lahaul-Spiti’s Keylong, Mahajan said.
A voter turnout of 63.80 per cent was recorded at Kaza and Khurik panchayats in Kaza block of Lahaul-Spiti as 1,197 of the 1,876 electors exercised their franchise, a district official said. All the members in 11 panchayats have already been elected unopposed, he added.
Voters came out in large numbers to vote at both panchayats in Kaza, despite a temperature of minus seven degrees Celsius, Block Development Officer Mahendra Pratap Singh said. A voter turnout of about 76 per cent was recorded in Hamirpur district.
India’s “first" voter, Shyam Saran Negi, exercised his franchise in Kinnaur district. Negi, who is 103 years old, cast his vote at a Kalpa polling booth, where he was given a warm welcome by the district administration, which laid a red carpet for him.
Kinnaur Deputy Commissioner Hemraj Bairwa honoured Negi with a Kinnauri “topi" and a shawl. Talking to reporters, Negi said the voters should participate in the polls to elect good and capable candidates.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur cast his vote at the Government Primary School, Kurani in Murhag gram panchayat of Mandi district along with his family members. State Congress president Kuldeep Singh Rathour and his wife Tripta Rathour cast their votes at Medhavani village in Kumarsain tehsil of Shimla district.
The counting of votes for ward members, deputy village heads and village heads will be taken up soon after the completion of voting. However, the counting of votes for the members of panchayat samitis and zila parishads will be conducted on January 22.
The election process will be completed by January 23, Mahajan said. The candidates are contesting these polls as independents and not on party symbols.