HIMACHAL BYPOLL: Chetan Bragta may queer the pitch for BJP; Congress to gain

Bhanu P Lohumi

Tribune News Service

Shimla, October 19

BJP rebel Chetan Bragta, who is fighting the Jubbal-Kotkhai byelection as an Independent candidate, is likely to queer the pitch for BJP candidate Neelam Saraik. Congress candidate Rohit Thakur, two-time MLA and grandson of former Chief Minister Ram Lal Thakur, is likely to benefit from the division of votes of the BJP in the politically-volatile constituency, which is all set to witness a triangular contest.

The byelection has been necessitated due to the death of former minister Narinder Bragta and his son Chetan Bragta, who was denied the BJP ticket, is an Independent candidate. The BJP is facing a virtual revolt with the BJP Jubbal Mandal president and office-bearers resigning from the party and openly supporting Bragta.

Bragta, who got 'apple' as the election symbol, is riding the crest of a sympathy wave in the constituency. He has declared himself as candidate of people with the slogan "Neta nahin beta" and a division in the BJP vote is sure to harm Neelam Saraik's prospects.

In the 1952 Assembly elections, Congress candidate Balanand won the seat but in the 1957 elections, he lost to Independent candidate Ram Lal Thakur. He joined the Congress and won the Assembly elections consecutively in 1962, 1967, 1972, 1977, 1982 and 1998. In 1990, Balanand fought the elections on the Janta Dal ticket and defeated Congress candidate Virbhadra Singh.

After Ram Lal Thakur's death, who won nine elections from the Jubbal-Kotkhai seat, his grandson Rohit Thakur won the seat in the 2003 and 2012 elections but lost to BJP candidate Narinder Bragta in the 2007 and 2017 elections.

During the 2017 elections, the Gudia rape and murder case was the main issue and the BJP was in an advantageous position. Rohit Thakur was well entrenched in the constituency but lost by a narrow margin. This time, Rohit may benefit from infighting in the BJP. Besides, he is liked by people for his low profile and friendly nature.

Neelam Saraik is a former Zila Parishad member and had been active in all agitations. She is the only woman contender in this rural segment where there are 307 more women voters than men voters. She is pinning hope on women voters and common people.

Jubbal-Kotkhai is located in the heart of the apple belt and the remunerative price for the apple crop, check on imported apple, discrimination with the area, and development are the main issues in the byelection. A slump in apple prices during the season is another issue.

Courtesy: Tribune News Service

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