Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s grand inauguration of the Kushinagar International Airport has served to underline the focus of the BJP-led governments in the centre and the state on projecting the growth story of Purvanchal as a major poll plank. All the more so since the farmer agitation it is facing in west UP may dampen its poll prospects there.
Modi sounded the poll bugle in July from Varanasi — his parliamentary constituency, and also a major district of Purvanchal where he inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of projects worth Rs 1,500 crore. Soon after, union home minister Amit Shah came to Mirzapur, part of the Vindhyachal region in east UP, where he laid the foundation stone of the Rs 150-crore Vindhyachal Corridor Project.
In less than a week, on October 25, Modi will be back in the region, to inaugurate seven medical colleges in as many districts in Siddharthnagar, Etah, Deoria, Ghazipur, Hardoi and Pratapgarh. Next month, according to state officials, the PM is expected to inaugurate the 341-km Purvanchal Expressway that will connect Ghazipur to Lucknow. What can be called Yogi government’s flagship project that was executed during his rule, the Purvanchal e-way will bring all the districts it will pass through, including backward regions of Mau, Azamgarh, Ambedkarnagar and others into the mainstream, and fuel economic and social growth. It will also pass through Ayodhya which is being developed as a tourism hub by the government in tandem with the construction of the Ram temple there.
For former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, the 302 km long Agra-Lucknow expressway and Lucknow metro served to highlight his development agenda, for CM Yogi Adityanath, it is development beyond Lucknow, further into the east that spells his contribution to the state.
“Now industrial development in UP is not limited to just one or two cities, but is also reaching the districts of Purvanchal,” PM Modi had said in his address in Kushinagar on Wednesday. Both Modi and Yogi have their constituencies in the politically important region. Yadav’s parliamentary constituency Azamgarh is also part of the region and a higher number of developmental works to showcase by the BJP may also automatically overshadow Akhilesh in the region. Last year in December, CM Yogi had, in a webinar on “Sustainable Development in Purvanchal: issues , strategies and way forward”, said the region had been a victim of “negative thoughts of some people”.
“If you see, Kanpur, Jhansi, Agra, Mathura, Noida and Ghaziabad- these clusters had been reasonably developed as far as economic and industrial activities were concerned. It was only in areas east of Lucknow, where economic activities suffered because everything had to be sourced either from Lucknow or from farther east from Patna or Kolkata. So, there is a well-considered strategy to not only focus and implement works in the east, but also portray the shift in focus to make UP more evenly matched between the east and the west, veteran journalist and political analyst Ratan Mani Lal, said.
“Also, Yogi has a better following in eastern UP districts, where he is considered a leader even beyond Gorakhpur, regardless of his affiliation with the BJP and if that can be translated into BJP’s support, then it will not have to worry about the perceived loss in the west, which may happen due to the farmer agitation- an issue that the party is becoming increasingly aware of,” he said.