With barely a year to go before the battle for UP begins in early 2017, the Akhilesh Yadav government, often accused of being minority-friendly, has included the twin cities of Ayodhya-Faizabad and Vrindavan among the seven model cities in the state. The cities associated with Hindu gods Ram and Krishna respectively have always figured prominently in the BJP’s UP plan.
Another important destination for Hindu pilgrims, Chitrakoot, also figures in the government’s initial list of ‘model cities’. Sources in the state’s urban development department suggested that orders have been issued to develop these key places of Hindu interest and promote them as the state’s “best cities.”
The government plans to open its coffers in what is virtually an election year to develop these seven model cities, including Charkhari, Mahoba and Sitapur and to focus on substantially raising the level of basic amenities and upgrading infrastructure.
The government’s scheme is a quick and modified version of the centre’s smart cities scheme. While blaming the centre of not agreeing to its request to include 14 instead of the present 13 among the smart cities list, the state government quickly announced its own scheme in an apparent effort to prove what a senior ruling party leader said, “while others talk, we deliver.”
The UP government has asked officials to focus on nine key aspects, including roads, infrastructure, traffic, uninterrupted power supply and environment in these places.
“In all these cities, traffic management is absent. Despite being well-known internationally, many of them still lack quality academic institutes. The infrastructure is mostly in shambles. So the idea is to work on all these aspects and help showcase them as the state’s best,” a senior government official privy to the plan said.
But with time running out, many doubt the government’s ability to bring about the promised turnaround. The move, political observers felt, will help the UP’s ruling party to counter the saffron brigade’s accusation of favouring “minorities.”
In fact, the move to include Hindu places of interests among the model cities fits into a pattern of the ruling party’s desire to be seen as carrying out “all round” development. Recently the government had launched the ‘Shravan yatra’ under which the state’s elderly were taken on a sponsored religious and spiritual trip. This was preceded by the announcement of Rs 50,000 subsidy for Hindu pilgrims undertaking the Kailash-Mansarovar trip.