New Delhi: With the results of the Himachal Pradesh assembly election being declared on December 18, the BJP and Congress are waiting in anticipation after a hard fought battle in the state. The incumbent Virbhadra Singh is Congress' candidate for the chief minister's post while BJP have chosen to go with former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal as their nomination for the top spot.
337 candidates are in the running, with the November 9 election drawing a record 74.61 per cent voting. While the Congress party is in power now, exit polls suggest the BJP will win in Himachal Pradesh come December 18.
Virbhadra Singh and Prem Kumar Dhumal are both political heavyweights in the state, with Mr Singh having been chief minister six times and Mr Dhumal having held the post twice. In fact, the two have taken turns at the chief minister's office since 1993.
Besides the two veterans, there are many leaders in different constituencies who would have impacted the polling.
Here is a look at some of the key candidates:
Virbhadra Singh, a six time chief minister, was announced as the Congress' candidate for the top spot in the state after the party opted for the tried and tested instead of promoting young leaders. The former chief minister has chosen to contest from Arki, a seat that is currently held by the BJP. Mr Singh has said that he wants to prove that he still wields the most influence in the state by removing the opposition party from the seat. Mr Singh was also given a complete say in candidate selection.
While he is a big name in the state, this election could prove tough for Virbhadra Singh who had corruption allegations leveled against him before the polls.
Prem Kumar Dhumal
The 73-year-old Dhumal has been spearheading the BJP's campaign in Himachal Pradesh since the 1998 assembly polls, leading it to victory in 1998 and 2007. After Amit Shah declared the veteran as the BJP's choice for chief minister, PM Modi had hailed him as a "wonderful CM", praising his rich administrative experience.
Mr Dhumal is contesting from the Sujanpur seat, where he is pitted against former confidant Rajinder Rana. He moved from his old Hamirpur constituency
Rajinder Rana is Prem Kumar Dhumal's protege-turned-bete noir. Having worked with Mr Dhumal for more than a decade, he parted ways with the former chief minister when he was denied a ticket in 2012.
Rajinder Rana will be fighting in his home turf and will be hoping to upset the BJP chief ministerial candidate and his former mentor, with the BJP's "Vote for the chief minister" plank helping the party considerably.
After his father Virbhadra Singh cleared the Shimla rural seat for him, Vikramaditya Singh faces the challenge of retaining a seat considered safe by the Congress in his debut foray into politics.
His main opponent is BJP's Pramod Verma.
Among other important candidates, former Congress leader Anil Sharma is the BJP's candidates in Mandi. Anil Sharma is the son of former Union minister Sukh Ram. The father-son duo quite the Congress recently to join the BJP. Sukh Ram had represented the Mandi seat from 1962 till 1984.
BJP's state president Satpal Singh Sati is contesting from the Una constituency while his Congress counterpart Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu is fighting from the Nadaun seat.