BJP on a tricky turf

Shimla: Even as the Himachal is set to go for by-polls in Mandi Lok Sabha and three Assembly constituencies, however, the Jubbal-Kotkhai segment is in the spotlight, where lies the real scene of action for the two major political parties both, Congress and BJP.

A triangular fight in the segment is palpable only for namesake, seemingly with the BJP has failed to damage control.

A direct contest between the Congress candidate Rohit Thakur and BJP rebel Chetan Bragta, son of Narinder Bragta, former BJP’s three-time MLA and cabinet minister twice and a chief whip of the party with a cabinet rank, is in the offing so far.

Even though Chetan is making a debut entry by contesting such as the election for the first-time banking on his father’s achievement of being a leader of the apple belt, however as far as his individual stature is concerned, he has had an association with the BJP as a party worker for quite some time and has had been the convener of the BJP IT Cell.

After his father’s demise (sitting MLA of Jubbal-Kotkhai), Chetan was projected by BJP as a suitable candidate and as things were almost final, however the last-minute change of decision of the party high command had the ticket allotted to Neelam Saraik.

This surprised many of the party workers in BJP rank and file who hoped to win the seat by encashing on sympathy votes.

Much to the chagrin, the supporters of Chetan Bragta egged him to stay put and contest the elections as an independent candidate, even though it meant to be branded as a turncoat.

The road ahead is not easy for BJP’s Neelam Saraik and also Chetan as they take on Congress candidate, two-time MLA Rohit Thakur and Chief Parliamentary Secretary. He is a grandson of former CM Ram Lal Thakur and was first elected from Jubbal-Kotkhai in 2003 and was re-elected in 2012 and with the divide in the BJP workers and banking on his political standing he is likely to get the tide in his favour.

Jubbal-Kotkhai has been a Congress bastion for long, a stronghold of Ram Lal Thakur till the 1990s, BJP has won the seat from Jubbal-Kotkhai only twice in 2007 and 2017, since 1951.

Assembly elections-2017, witnessed Rohit Thakur being defeated by Narinder Bragta by a very thin margin of 1062 votes.

Meanwhile, three-time Zila Parishad member, Neelam Saraik is eying to woo the chunk of female voters around 35,626 as it is for the first time a woman has been given a ticket to contest the election by any political party in the apple belt.

The divide in the BJP and Chetan riding on sympathy votes of his father and denial of party ticket is sure to cut into the votes of the incumbent BJP candidate.

By coincidence of ‘Apple’ as election symbol allotted to Chetan at a time when apple growers have charged the state government of failing to protect their interest, has come in handy to connect with the voters of the affluent apple belt. His father had also been active in the farmers’ movements.

Chetan supporters are harping on the slogan, “Na hum Congress, Na hum BJP wale, hum hai Seb wale” (Neither we are Congress, nor BJP, we are Apple people) and also the fact that the farmers of the affluent apple belt are disgruntled with the state government.

There are 70,792 electorates in Jubbal-Kotkhai that include 35,626 female voters, whereas male voters are 35,166 who would exercise their franchise on 30 October.

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