Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections National

Congress falls from grace in apple belt

Life goes on: Tourists still flock to Shimla despite the election chorus.   | Photo Credit: Akhilesh Kumar

“There were times in the rich apple belt of Shimla district when voters used to shut their windows on seeing activists of the BJP or any other Opposition party campaigning,” recalls Laiq Ram, an octogenarian farmer of Kotkhai village. It was such a stronghold of the Congress that most Chief Ministers of the hill State had come from this region.

Of the eight Assembly constituencies, only two urban seats of Shimla and Kusumpati were occasionally won by the Opposition after the Janata Party’s victory in 1977. But the past decade-and-a half has seen a consistent rise of the BJP and even the CPI(M) in some of the constituencies of the apple belt, with people blaming overconfidence and arrogance on the part of some senior Congress leaders.

Search for alternatives

The electorate, which had otherwise sent Congress leaders like Vidya Stokes, Ramlal Thakur, J.B.L. Khachi, Singhi Ram and Virbhadra Singh repeatedly to the Assembly, has now started looking for alternatives, says Sohan Thakur from Chopal village.

The Congress leadership ignored the need for building infrastructure and had taken the people for granted, says Ravinder Dutt of Jubbal, complaining about the bad condition of the roads everywhere. The farmers face difficulties during the apple harvest season in taking their produce from the fields to the market because of poor roads, he says.

The constituencies such as Chopal, Jubbal-Kotkhai, Rohru and Rampur have almost similar problems of poor infrastructure.

The BJP has fielded Balbir Verma in Chopal, after he defected from the Congress. He had won as an Independent and had become an associate Congress MLA.

In Jubbal-Kotkhai, former Horticulture Minister Narendra Bragta is again facing his arch-rival and Congress MLA Rohit Thakur, a grandson of the former Chief Minister Ramlal Thakur. Voters here have always voted for a change and even defeated Virbhadra Singh in 1990 when he was the sitting Chief Minister.

Big fights

Rohru and Rampur, though still a Congress stronghold, are also set to witness interesting fights.

In Shimla (Rural), Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s son Vikramaditya is facing a serving university teacher Pramod Sharma in a close battle.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 10:55:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/congress-falls-from-grace-in-apple-belt/article19951444.ece

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