Even before the current round of the assembly elections is over, the Congress has hit the poll track in Uttar Pradesh, launching the first of its four parivartan (change) rallies from Basti district in eastern UP on Sunday.
UP is scheduled to have its assembly elections by May next year. Three union ministers of the Congress from UP accused the BSP government of siphoning off central funds. And the party's national general secretary who is in charge of UP, Digvijaya Singh, said, "This rally indicates the Congress is set to make a return to UP (it lost power in 1989)."
The list of promises was long: a network of smooth roads and expressways; food security; hospitals; housing colonies for the poor; power; and doubling the scholarships meant for the minorities, poor and backwards. Union minister for water resources and minority affairs Salman Khurshid said: "We are giving as many as 400,000 scholarships for the dalits, minorities, backwards and poor. We can double the number. However, we know the benefits are not reaching you. So we have decided to provide all scholarships directly. You need not come to us through the state government from next year, by which time you would have your unique identification number. Just log on and apply online to us."
Union minister for coal Sriprakash Jaiswal said, "At times we feel helpless. Our funds for UP are not being utilised. What do we do? At times we feel that Article 356 (of the Constitution) should be used to dismiss such a corrupt government. But both Soniaji and Rahulji want the people who voted this government to power in 2007 should vote it out in 2012. UP's fate will change if central funds are properly used."
Jitin Prasad, minister for surface transport, said he was working on a plan that would ensure that the state would soon have a network of expressways and highways. "In next four months UP will have a four-lane highway, potholed roads provided by the state government will be replaced with smooth roads. A new four-lane road, worth Rs 1,700 crore, will also be ready and all of this will cut travel time and the travails of the common man," he said.