By: Satyakam Bharti
Parliamentary elections are not far off, but there is hardly any visible excitement among the electorates in Himachal Pradesh. Any why should they anyway bother as the state will have almost negligible stakes in the central government to be formed, except for the local leadership trying to put up a show of strength to meet their local needs. That almost all major leaders from the state, irrespective of their party affiliations, have in one way or other expressed their inability to fight the Lok Sabha elections, is proof enough that they have no national ambitions, or to put it in other words they are happy with their cocooned life. The loser in every respect is the state as the leaders themselves cry hoarse over being neglected by the central government.
The obvious reasoning that the four MPs Himachal sends to the Parliament hardly count may be true to an extent, but the state anyway needs a strong lobby in New Delhi and the politicians and bureaucrats have failed miserably on that account. To what extent this is important for the state is evident from the benefits Himachal reaped while Sukh Ram and Shanta Kumar were ministers at the Centre. While the state has from time to time been represented in the union government, hardly anyone could leave a mark at the national level. The best known face from Himachal is perhaps Shanta Kumar, who now seems too saddened to lose the chief minister’s post to Prem Kumar Dhumal, and is thus in a state of self-denial. The present minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma seems ‘well settled’ in New Delhi, but has little local standing. The towering Virbhadra Singh is still a force to reckon with in state politics, but despite having a career spanning more than four decades, most of it as chief minister, he is still a lightweight within his own party at the national level.
The fact that someone like PA Sangma could rise to the post of Speaker of the Lok Sabha despite representing the numerically insignificant North East, proves that there is hardly any limitation over stature of a leader. Perhaps, had it not been for Dr YS Parmar’s stature, Himachal may never have existed as a state.
Moreover, today’s coalition politics has made every MP or MLA valuable, be it an independent, who now can even dream of becoming a chief minister, the way Madhu Koda did it in Jharkhand. Himachal’s political landscape may not be supporting coalition politics as of now, but that again is no hindrance to any leader cultivating a pan-India image.
While a whole generation of leaders is well past their prime now, the hope lies with the youth. The current political scenario in the state has given several young leaders a chance to prove their mettle and they have enough time at their disposal to cultivate an image for themselves and make their presence felt at the national level. Hopefully, they have a vision for the country, and not just the state.