With the Lok Sabha elections inching closer, it appears all major political parties contesting for the Kangra seat have nothing new to offer to the electorate. The candidates of the BJP, the Congress party and AAP are harping on the same issues that had become poll planks in every election but were conveniently forgotten once the party was voted to power.
The issue of expansion and conversion of the Pathankot-Jogindernagar narrow gauge rail line to broad gauge has been raked up again. While the tracks, which were built eight decades ago, lie in a state of utter neglect, the veteran BJP leader and party nominee for Kangra, Shanta Kumar, as well as former MP and Congress candidate Chander Kumar are again promising voters the rail line would be upgraded and extended up to Leh via Manali.
“The track needs immediate repairs as it has been neglected for over thirty years. If the bridges aren’t maintained properly it could cause a major disaster,” said Arvind Sharma, a resident of the Nagrota Surian area, adding both BJP and Congress politicians never made any serious efforts to upgrade the railway line. “Every time netas talk about expanding the tracks and converting them to broad gauge instead of ensuring they are maintained,” he added.
Another issue that both the parties are reviving is a new cement manufacturing facility in Chamba, which has been hanging fire for the past two decades. Candidates from both the Congress and the BJP have again pledged the plant would be constructed, even though the project has been shelved twice in the past.
The third major poll plank of the contestants is bringing agro industry to the region, ignoring the fact that proper infrastructure should be in place first. “They are trying to woo voters by parroting old issues while missing out on the real problems that people are facing,” said Anil Bhardwaj, a youth from Dharamsala.
He added unemployment was the biggest issue for youngsters but all parties had ignored this problem. “They (politicians) have been talking about projects like setting up a cement plant in Chamba or an industrial area in Kangra for decades, but we’ve yet to see any of them take off ,” he said, adding in spite of the region having a vast tourism potential, political parties did not have any viable plans for its development.