Poll din is missing in Kotgarh, the village that revolutionised apple-growing in Himachal Pradesh. There are no buntings, no posters or graffiti here. After the British defeated Gurkhas of Nepal, Kotgarh became British territory.
Once centre for British missionaries, now Kotgarh is known as the fruit bowl of the state for the variety of its fruit production.
The place owes a lot to American missionary Samuel Evan Stokes who propagated delicious apple varieties brought from Philadelphia in 1916 on his farm land at Barubagh.
It is one of the most affluent regions in the apple-growing areas of the state. Kotgarh, now part of Theog assembly segment, is represented by Vidya Stokes, veteran Congress leader and daughter-in-law of Samuel Evan Stokes.
But the nearby villages have remained away from the hustle and bustle of the election campaign.
“Though there is some activity during the assembly elections, neither leaders nor locals are enthused by the election campaign.
Maybe people are aware in this region,” says Anup Bhailaik, a resident of Pulsar. The lack of interest in the elections is largely attributed to the farm activity that keeps fruit growers busy in their orchards. Villagers growing apples have now begun to diversify into other fruit, like almonds, pears, cherries and pomegranates.
People keep track of every political event and happening but it’s rare that they are mobilised by campaigns. “People are busy in their orchards as cherry is ready for harvest,” says Pratap Kaul of Pamlai village.
Almond, the main crop in the lower belts of Kotgarh, will be ready for harvest by the month end.
“In the Lok Sabha polls, political parties put less stress on campaigning here because people do not pay much heed.
In the assembly elections, some movement can be seen but in the parliamentary polls, you will hardly find a party flag here,” says Gopal Mehta, a fruit grower of Halyana village.
Kotgarh is a highly developed region with roads connecting almost every village. There is water supply and electricity connection in virtually every household.
“Kotgarh is a progressive area and most houses are connected to road, drinking water and schools.
“People are not overly enthusiastic about elections and you will not find a hectic election campaign here,” Deepak Bhaik of Kotgarh says.
People remain aloof from electioneering. People participated in large numbers in an agitation against the Shanta Kumar government in 1989 to raise support prices of apples.
A memorial close to the bazaar is a grim reminder of the police firing that killed three farmers in the region.