Railway expansion in Himachal shall be the major election issue


By : Arvind Sharma

Himachal shall go to poll for parliament on 7 th of May. The hill state has just 4 MPs, and public believe that their voice is rarely heard at the center,(in any party’s government). Though the state always has its share in the ministry but even than the people of Himachal feel that their problems are always kept a side. This time the voters of the state are in a mood to send only those neta’s to Delhi ,who can claim their right and bring back the long pending demands of this peace loving state, and that too if the party promise to meet their demands.

Himachal has two toy train tracks built during the British regime, one Kalka-Shimla and the other Pathankot-Jogindernagar. Since independence it has given just few kilometers of broad gouge track from Nangal to Amb, which is negligible as compared to other states. Even the hilly state of J&K has a big share for national railway connectivity.

Railway expansion is one of the many issues of Himachal that have remained unsolved till now, though poor air and road connectivity is also hampering speedy development of Himachal. Although many announcements were made for railway expansions by government headed by different political parties, but these were either been restricted to surveys or kept in the files only.

The issue of railway networking in Himachal is being taken up by the people of the state in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Sensing the pulse of the voters, both Congress and BJP are also sharing the common concern over expansion of rail network in Himachal.

Himachal is dying for railway expansion, and both the major political parties, the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party, are raising their voice unanimously on the issue. However, keeping in view the Centre’s intention (till date), the voters now need a promise from all parties that Himachal shall be given railway portfolios in Union Cabinet, to get their candidate a winning hand. “The voters feel that Himachal can prosper only if a Union minister from the state gets railways portfolio; otherwise it will always remain in the last line of development,” Rakesh Kumar a retired IAS said.

There has been a long standing demand to convert existing Pathankot-Jogindernagar railway line to broad gauge and further link it to Leh due to strategic importance but nothing has been done on the issue so far. Many other rail projects like Bhanupali-Bilaspur, Chandigarh-Baddi and others have been hanging fire for a long time. The only exception is ongoing work on Nangal-Una-Amb-Andora rail line that too at a snail’s pace.

When asked by PTI, Shanta Kumar BJP candidate, from Kangra said on the issue, “Pathankot-Jogindernagar-Leh rail line shall be my priority.” Rajan Sushant AAP candidate, Kangra have also shown his keenness for Expansion of railway network. Chander Kumar Congress candidate from Kangra said, “If UPA comes to power in centre, railway expansion in Himachal shall be the priority subject as this expansion is also of the value of national security, to take it up to Leh to counter the rail expansion of China.”

Pratibha Singh Congress candidate from Mandi said, “Linking Mandi, Kullu with rail link shall be my major issue.” Rajinder Rana Congress candidate, Hamirpur has also shown interest in strengthening of rail network and tourism sector. Anurag Thakur BJP candidate, Hamirpur, said, “My first demand in centre shall be of linking Hamirpur with rail network.”

Virender Kashyap, BJP candidate, Shimla (reserve) too wants an expansion of railway network in Himachal. Virender Kashyap, BJP candidate, Shimla (reserve) and Mohan Brakta Congress candidate, Shimla (reserve) have also shown their keenness over the subject.

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Arvind Sharma is a permanent resident of Dharamshala in HP, and is an award winning bi-lingual journalist with more than 22 years of experience. He started his writing career from local weekly Himachal Kesri and later worked with Divya Himachal, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, Vir Partap and Ajit. Currently, he is working with news agency PTI. He was conferred with the Himachal Kesri journalism award in 2010.

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