A record 74.62% of the 46 lakh voters in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday exercised their franchise in the Assembly election where ruling BJP and Congress are locked in a virtual straight contest.
After a slow start, polling for the 68-member Assembly picked up as the day progressed and the hill state witnessed a massive turnout.
As per the voting figures till 5 pm, 74.62% polling had been registered in the state and the percentage was expected to go up, election officials said in Shimla.
Election Commission Director General Akshay Raut said that the polling was violence-free.
The polling figure may cross the previous best of 74.51% registered in the state in 2003 as people waited to cast their ballot in 200 polling stations even after 1700 hrs, the time of close of poll.
Deputy Election Commissioner Alok Shukla said the EC had taken several steps to ensure a higher voter turnout in the state by making use of multiple media sources.
He said since counting of votes would be held on December 20 after the Gujarat election, elaborate arrangements have been made to keep the EVMs under CCTV vigil and guarded by central paramilitary forces.
The electorate in Himachal Pradesh comprises 46.08 lakh voters, including 22.31 lakh women. 7,253 polling stations were set up, including in Hikkim in Lahaul and Spiti at a height of over 15,000 feet. In all, 459 candidates are in the fray, 34 of them being women.
The main contest is between ruling BJP and Congress which have put candidates in all the seats. Led by Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, incumbent BJP is hoping to script history in Himachal Pradesh by going the Punjab way, where the Akali Dal-BJP combine returned to power. The state has never repeated a government since 1977.
Congress leader and five-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh cast his ballot at his native place in Rampur town, some 120 km from Shimla, while the chief minister exercised his franchise in Hamirpur.