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Rebellion in BJP ranks raises stakes in Jubbal Kotkhai battle

The seat which was won by BJP candidate and former Minister Narender Bragta in 2017 by a narrow margin of 1,062 votes, is now heading for a triangular contest.

Written by Om Prakash Thakur | Shimla |
Updated: October 16, 2021 10:21:33 pm
Chetan Bragta, son of former BJP MLA Narender Bragta, is fighting as an Independent. (Photo: Twitter @chetanbragta)

As Himachal heads for bypolls to 3 Assembly constituencies, its Jubbal Kotkhai Vidhan Sabha seat that has become a keen contest for both the Congress and the BJP.

The seat which was won by BJP candidate and former Minister Narender Bragta in 2017 by a narrow margin of 1,062 votes, is now heading for a triangular contest.

Congress candidate Rohit Thakur, grandson of former Chief Minister Ram Lal Thakur, took a lead in campaigning as BJP announced its candidate only on October 7, one day before the last date of filing the nomination papers.

To add the BJP’s troubles is the fact that Chetan Bragta, son of former MLA Narender Bragta, is fighting as an Independent despite party’s repeated attempts to make him stand down in favour of official candidate, Neelam Saraik.

On Friday evening after a marathon meeting, all BJP office bearers in Jubbal Kotkhai mandal — from panna pramukh to mandal president — resigned in one go and decided to support Chetan Bragta. The resignations have come as a big jolt to the party with little time left for it to resolve the crisis.

BJP candidate Neelam Saraik said that a new mandal has been constituted as on Saturday and new office-bearers have gone to the field.

“They (Bragta and his supporters) cannot digest that a woman got the ticket, but all the people and state leadership are with me. We are campaigning from 7 in the morning till nine in the evening,” she said. Former vice president of Jubbal Kotkhai BJP mandal Ram Prakash Jagethia, who resigned from the mandal on Friday, said that “sheer injustice has been done with Chetan Bragta by the BJP leadership and we all were already campaigning since the last two months. Now, how can we seek votes for Neelam Saraik, who was always against us,” he added.

“We will win the seat as the Virbhadra faction of the Congress party, including former Shimla Municipal Corporation Deputy Mayor Harish Janartha, Shimla District Congress Rural president Yashwant Chhajta and all former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s staunch loyalists may support Bragta,” said Jagethia.

He was referring to old rivalry between the Virbhadra faction and that of Ram Lal Thakur, the grandfather of current Congress candidate.

The supporters of Bragta said they were hopeful that in the end even BJP leadership might internally ask its cadre to vote for him instead of Neelam Saraik.

Bragta has held the post of state convenor of BJP IT Cell before he was expelled for six years for anti-party activities by state president Suresh Kashyap.

The BJP is still trying to manage the situation with senior leaders including Suresh Bhardwaj, Sukh Ram Chaudhary and Chaupal Balbir Verma continuously camping in Jubbal Kotkhai.

In 2017 polls, there was a tough fight between BJP candidate Narender Bragta and Congress’s Rohit Thakur. Out of total 67,289 votes 54,706 were polled and Bragta got 27,466 votes, while Rohit Thakur got 26,409 Votes. This time there are a total 70,965 voters who will decide the fate of all the four candidates in fray.

The voting for Jubbal Kotkhai, Arki and Fatehpur Vidhan Sabha and Mandi Lok Sabha seat bypolls will be held on October 30.

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