To see a full-page advertisement on Saturday in a national English newspaper featuring Himachal leaders was a rare surprise. Though there was no mention who issued the advertisement announcing inauguration of Himachal Textile Park Limited, reportedly by the Jindal group, the underlying message did not go unnoticed. It speaks of undercurrents about how politics is shaping up in the state.
While ads are an important part of armour used to fight political battles in Punjab, the hill state has still remained aloof from employing menacing media propaganda machines to win over their rivals. Though the last Assembly elections saw parties splurging on advertisements, it was not anywhere near to Photoshop-created rally crowds seen in the neighbouring states. But the context this time is different. The present ad announced the first major textile park in the state, and it undoubtedly was meant to glorify the ruling leadership, or maybe a family, highlighting it as a major achievement.
Leaving aside the technical issue that it did not mention who issued the congratulatory note, it heralds a new chapter in the state politics, one that is fought over deciding the economic fate of the state. While bringing in investment to the state undoubtedly can be converted into votes, but it also raised fear of Nayamgiri coming to Himachal. While there is already sizable resistance to big projects in the state, the two major parties have more or less maintained a similar approach towards welcoming industry and investment. But increasing use of industry as a bulwark to secure political interests is sure to polarise the industrial atmosphere in the state.
Though relevance of heavy industralisation in the state itself is quite debatable, the state certainly requires investment but not at the cost of spoiling its political environment. In a state where the electorate has been rational enough to give both ends of the political spectrum to make a difference, entry of a hidden face altering power equations can only being opprobrium for the political class.