Shimla, Apr 6 (PTI) The elections for four Himachal Pradesh municipal corporations are being seen as a litmus test for Chief Minister Jairam Thakur ahead of the Assembly polls next year.
Dharamshala, Mandi, Solan and Palampur will go to polls from 8 am to 4 pm on Wednesday.
Mandi, Solan and Palampur are the newly-created civic bodies and will go for polls for the first time, while the Dharamshala municipal corporation was created in 2015 when the elections were not held on party symbols.
The fifth municipal corporation of Shimla will end in 2022. Thus, it has been kept out of the poll schedule.
A total of 279 candidates are trying their luck in 64 wards of the four municipal bodies, but the direct contest is likely between the BJP and the Congress candidates. The Aam Aadmi Party has also fielded its candidates on 43 out of total 64 wards, whereas the CPI(M) has fielded only one candidate in a ward in Mandi.
Eighty candidates are in the fray for 17 wards of Dharamshala, followed by 75 candidates for 15 wards of Mandi, 64 candidates for 15 wards of Palampur and 60 candidates for Solan.
The counting of votes will be taken up immediately after the close of the poll at 4 pm at the municipal headquarters.
Elections are also being simultaneously held in six newly-created nagar panchayats -- Chirgaon and Nerwa in Shimla district, Ani and Nirmand in Kullu district, Kandaghat in Solan and Amb in Una district.
Both the BJP and Congress leaders are claiming that they would emerge victorious in all the four corporations.
During electioneering, the BJP leaders cited achievements of the state government and promised to provide better roads, sewage and water facilities.
The Congress has levelled allegations of misuse of government machinery during campaigning, stating that several rural areas had been included in the three newly-created municipal corporations. They also promised to ensure minimum wages under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission.
The chief minister has addressed a number of public meetings, while Union minister Anurag Thakur campaigned in Dharamshala on Monday.
Cabinet ministers Mahender Singh Thaiur, Bikram Singh, Rakesh Pathania, former minister Rajeev Bindal and state BJP chief and Shimla MP Suresh Kashyap also campaigned for party candidates.
The campaigning for the Congress was led by state president Kuldeep Singh Rathore and opposition leader Mukesh Agnihotri and other party leaders like Sudhir Sharma, Kaul Singh Thakur, G S Bali and Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu.
Former chief minister Virbhadra Singh was scheduled to campaign for Congress in Solan on Monday, but could not go there due to recent spike in coronavirus cases, Congress state president Kuldeep Singh Rathore said.
He has issued an appeal to the electors to vote in favour of Congress candidates. PTI DJI HMB