Shimla (January 7): Seldom has the incumbent government in Himachal Pradesh felt so much threatened, not from the opposition but its own indifference towards its own people. While the clamour over successive state governments selling the interest of the locals has been rising over the years with those in the power paying little head to such voices, this time the government had all the reasons to feel shaken as large chunks of government apathy started falling off from the edifice of so-called development in the state.
The high prices of cement being produced in the state as compared to the neighbouring states was no hidden secret and yet both the government and the opposition had failed to take up the matter all these matter. When the fact finally surfaced, it was more of a political compulsion for the opposition rather than conviction to protect the Himachali interests. And when the government patted its back for having forced the cement companies to reduce prices majorly, it was definately not a victory for it; rather, it was admission of the malaise that has been eating away the state for so long. Government after government had raised the boogie of safeguarding Himachali interests time and again without meaning much, but this one was real, requiring no great understanding of socio-environmental dynamics but plain erthematic skills that the near-literate state surely has.
The three cement companies operating in the state did not cry foul, and therefore the government was saved from trying too much and the opposition from protesting too hard. It appeared as if there was a plan B at work. In the end everything was normal as if nothing had happened. But the truth is that there has been a tactonic shift in the political landscape of the state with local interests finally emerging as a reality. The Supreme Court decision on electricity from Bhakra Dam favouring Himachal had already cleared a major mindblock for Himachalis, assertng that there are real issues concerning them and also solutions.
The commulative result has been that while the political landscape has been set abuzz with talks of the third front to counter the forces that compromised Himachali interests, the electorate itself has woken up to the reality of being actual victims of a conspiracy to loot their land. As a result, while the two main political parties in the state have started feeling the heat of being exposed of their “psudo-developmental’ image, fringe elements on the political horizon too have started raising a voice.
The anti-corruption brigades within the two parties too realise the value of dissociating themselves from the ‘developmental brigade’ and may be trying to use it as an opportunity to make a big kill. What appears rather surprising is the lowering of the pitch by the activist brigade after crying foul for so long. Perhaps, it may be the lull before the storm as the state prepares for the assembly polls ahead.
Whatever the political countours the state may show in the coming few months, one thing is sure that the political establishment in the state will not be able to survive without a lesson or two on Himachali assertion.