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Apple belt in Himachal Pradesh may upset the Congress

The internal difference amongst Congress & the failure to control the deteriorating law & order in Himachal is giving an upper hand to BJP.

As the election dates are coming closer with every passing day the opinions of the experts are becoming firmer that, BJP might overtake the ruling Congress in Himachal Pradesh this time. The state is going to polls on 9 Nov and the results will be announced on 18 Dec along with the results of Gujarat polls.

Himachal Pradesh six-time Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh also popularly known as ‘Raja Sahib’ is definitely losing the charm on his people. At least seven states including Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur, Mandi, Chamba, Sirmaur and Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal comprise of the apple belt. This belt accounts for 33 of the state’s 68 Assembly seats.

As per the recent opinions, the long nurtured apple belt by Virbhadra Singh seems to be turning its back to its Raja Sahib and thinking of favouring the BJP. Currently, in the region, the ruling Congress holds six seats, while one is under BJP and one occupied by an independent. Taking into account some tactical mistakes done by Congress and the public outburst against the government regarding the gangrape incident of a 14-year old is turning the tides towards BJP.

BJP not leaving a chance to pull down the ruling government in Himachal has been time and again bringing up the heinous crime, referred to as the ‘Gudiya incident’ as an example of the deteriorating law and order condition in the state under the Congress government. The incident of gangrape and murder of a 14-year old girl from a poor family in a village of Kotkhai, whenever talked about always raises goosebumps of the electorate and has affected not just the belt but the entire state.

The people of Himachal are very hospitable as said by a resident of Theog, which was the epicenter of the protest against the Gudiya incident. Asha Sharma said “The biggest reason is that we are a quiet set of people. Even if a Himachali is drunk, he would ask about your well-being and offer you his home and food.”

As if the impact of the incident was not enough for the Congress, it, even more, made the situation worse for the party by errors in ticket distribution. Congress veteran Vidya Stokes has been winning and nurturing the Theog region since long, but at 90, when she decided to quit politics, his seat was offered to Virbhadra Singh. The Chief Minister referred to chose Arki in nearby Solan district over the Theog seat.

After Virbhadra chose Arki, Vidya suggested Vijay Pal Khachi, however, the Congress central leadership gave the ticket to Deepak Rathore. Responding to this decision, the enraged Vidya filed the nomination for the same seat, despite Deepak filing the papers for it. After much chaos and the papers of Vidya being rejected and no relief from the high court, Deepak Rathore is the final candidate from Theog.

All this turns and twists on the part of the Congress is confusing the people and also the fact that Deepak does not have the blessing of Vidya, may turn the tables against him. The internal differences amongst the party is a major risk that the party is taking at this moment, for which the party might have to pay a heavy price by losing the seat.

Meanwhile, BJP is confidently boasting about its victory and Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that the Congress has already accepted its defeat and left Virbhadra Singh in the hands of the fate. These elections though, the results will not be out until 18 Dec are largely going to affect assembly polls in Gujarat and the outcome of the Gujarat elections will definitely pave the path for the Lok Sabha elections due in 2019.

The fact that no senior Congress leaders are coming in front for the election campaign and BJP taking advantage of this is surely convincing the electorate of the weaknesses of the ruling government in Himachal and making the situations even tougher for Congress.

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