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HP assembly polls 2022: Talk apple, pluck Shimla; tourism next big ticket to winning district | Shimla News 4/5 (1)

SHIMLA: Apple and tourism win Shimla. This district of eight assembly seats is third biggest kingmaker in Himachal Pradesh after 15-seat Kangra and 10-seat Mandi. Shimla is also the only district to have produced two chief ministers in Virbhadra Singh and Ram Lal Thakur, of whom the former had six terms.
Both CMs were from the Congress. The district's other big names in politics include late Jai Bihari Lal Khachi, also of the Congress, beside late Narender Bragta (BJP), current state Congress president Pratibha Singh, Congress veteran Vidya Stokes, and urban development minister Suresh Bhardwaj (BJP). The district's major economic activities are agriculture and horticulture, while its principal fruit crop has made Himachal Pradesh the apple state of India. Tourism is Shimla's next big business because of topography and natural beauty, and hence the district's politics revolves around apple, farming, and tourism.

The Sanyukt Kisan Manch, a conglomerate is 20 farmer unions, has declared to adopt a policy of wait and watch this time. The election manifestoes of the BJP and the Congress will decide who will get the farmers' vote. The district's eight assembly seats are Chopal, Theog, Kasumpti, Shimla Rural, Shimla Urban, Jubbal-Kotkhai, Rampur (reserved for Scheduled Caste), and Rohru (SC).
In 2017, the BJP won 3 seats (Chopal, Shimla Urban, and Jubbal-Kotkhai), the Congress won 4 (Kasumpti, Shimla Rural, Rampur (SC), and Rohru (SC), and the CPM took Theog. After BJP MLA Narender Bragta died, the Congress added his seat of Jubbal-Kotkhai to its tally in the 2021 byelection, in which Rohit Thakur won and BJP's Neelam Saraik lost her deposit.
In all the previous elections, the Congress relied on the charisma of late Virbhadra Singh to attract the voters. After him, the party relies on his name. The BJP, on the other hand, is in a tight spot because of the apple growers' ire against chief minister Jai Ram Thakur's policies. Former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal is the only BJP member with clout in the apple belt, for he established the party in this zone, but he is out of the poll campaign.
Rebels and shuffling of the sitting MLAs' seats have made the election tougher for both BJP and Congress. Congress faces mutiny in Chopal, Theog, and Rampur, while there is discontent over ticket distribution in Shimla Urban. The BJP has given urban development minister Suresh Bhardwaj a new seat of Kasumpti to contest after he won Shimla Urban in 2017.
Chopal rebel Subhash Manglate has created problems for the Congress, while Indu Verma, wife of former MLA Rakesh Verma, worries the BJP in Theog seat because of challenging the official candidate. In Jubbal-Kotkhai, the BJP had denied last year's byelection ticket to Chetan Bragta, son of late former MLA Narender Bragta, and he finished second as independent. This time, the BJP fielded at the cost of Neelam Saraik. Rampur is a Congress bastion but under threat this time from BJP's young gun Kaul Singh Negi.

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