While candidates are sweating it out in the hustings, printing units in the poll-bound Himachal Pradesh are all smiles with orders for large hoardings, banners and flags pouring in. Local printers say the assembly elections have breathed a new lease of life into their businesses which suffered losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As Himachal Pradesh goes to polls on November 12, the candidates are leaving no stone unturned for publicity, putting up posters, hoardings and flags wherever possible in their constituencies. A total of 412 candidates are trying their luck in the 68 assembly seats of the state. Top leaders of the BJP, which is campaigning to break the trend of a party not returning to power in the state for two consecutive terms, are holding two to three rallies and public meetings daily. Senior Congress leaders such as Priyanka Gandhi and some AAP leaders have also held rallies in the state. Atul Rana of Rana Arts Flex Printing has received an order worth lakhs of rupees from an independent candidate in his constituency. He claimed that printers in the district have made an estimated business of Rs 5 crore in these elections. There are around 500 printing units in the state, Rana said.
“It is good to see orders flowing in during the elections. It has helped us recover some of the losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rana said. He, however, said the business has not recovered to the pre-pandemic levels. “Before the pandemic, we had a turnover of Rs 50 lakh while now it is around Rs 25-30 lakh.” Sunny Sahni, who runs a printing press near the Gaggal area of the Kangra district, agrees with Rana. He said local units get orders largely from Independent candidates. The local printing units are facing stiff competition from printers of other states such as Haryana which are grabbing orders from national-level parties.
Local printers say that they get only a few orders from national-level parties.Printers from outside the state appear only during the elections and take away the business even as units here have all the machines to produce every kind of product like large hoardings and life-size cutouts of political leaders, Rana said.
“We have to work on low margins due to competition from outsiders. Their quality is also not good as they focus on one-time gain,” he said.
Another printer said, “Only a few units with good connections with political leaders have been able to get orders from national-level parties.” “If they want votes from us then why don’t they give business to local people also,” said the visibly upset printer. The government should make a law on this, he demanded.