Himachal Bypoll: Discontent among growers in apple belt may cost BJP dear

Himachal Bypoll: Discontent among growers in apple belt may cost BJP dear

Chetan Bragta, Ind., Rohit Thakur, Cong and Neelam Saraik, BJP

Pratibha Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, October 15

The BJP government ignoring the issues of apple growers and Chetan Bragta being denied the ticket can result in division of votes in the Jubbal-Kotkhai byelection.

There is discontent among the people of apple heartland Jubbal-Kotkhai against the government for ignoring the issues of apple growers. The apple economy, estimated to be about Rs 4,500 crore, spans across 15 Assembly segments and the growers can prove to be the deciding factor in the Jubbal-Kotkhai byelection.

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The denial of ticket to Chetan Bragta, son of Narinder Bragta, who was considered a strong voice of apple growers, can cost the BJP dear.

Congress candidate Rohit Thakur is a two-time MLA. He has also remained Chief Parliamentary Secretary in the Virbhadra Singh government and has been raising issues of the apple growers. However, he has not held any senior position to be able to influence decision making in the government.

The constituency is witnessing a keen triangular contest between Rohit Thakur (Congress), Chetan Bragta (Independent) and Neelam Saraik (BJP). The Congress is likely to benefit from the split in the BJP votes, as BJP rebel and Indpendent candidate Chetan Bragta will undercut Neelam’s prospects. The feeling that the BJP has ignored the apple growers and adverse remarks made by Horticulture Minister Mahender Singh can also hit the BJP’s chances .

The apple growers have been demanding a higher rate than the present Rs 9.50 per kg being given the under market intervention scheme (MIS). Another major issue concerning them is the high input cost, especially of cartons and other packaging material. “The closure of the Gumma carton factory has been a major loss for the apple belt as it ensured the supply of quality cartons and also helped in regulating their prices in the open market,” laments an apple grower.

During his tenure as Horticulture Minister, Narinder Bragta was credited with introducing the anti-hail gun, though doubts persist over its efficacy. Besides, he helped in setting up a marketing yard at Prala and mandis at Rohru, Narkanda and Matiana which facilitated farmers to sell their produce closer to their farmlands. Earlier, they would send their produce to the Azadpur Mandi in Delhi, and Parwanoo or Dhalli in Shimla.

Another demand of the growers is the enhancement in the import duty on apple to ensure that they do not have to compete with cheaper apple from other countries. Huge quantities of apple is imported from Iran, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan every year which is far cheaper than apple from Himachal or Kashmir. 

Jubbal-Kotkhai

Congress candidate Rohit Thakur is likely to benefit from the split in the BJP votes, as BJP rebel and Indpendent candidate Chetan Bragta will undercut Neelam Saraik’s prospects.

The feeling that the BJP has ignored apple growers and adverse remarks by Horticulture Minister Mahender Singh can also hit the BJP’s chances.

Rs 4,500 cr economy

  • Jubbal-Kotkhai is the apple heartland and there is resentment against the BJP regime.
  • The denial of ticket to Chetan Bragta, son of Narinder Bragta, who was considered one of the strongest voices of apple growers, can cost the BJP dear.
  • The apple economy, estimated to be about Rs4,500 crore, spans across 15 Assembly segments and the growers can prove to be the deciding factor.

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