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Amid Caste Calculus Still Ruling the Roost in UP, Yogi Govt's Search for a Marquee Project

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath with Union Minister for Urban Afairs Hardeep Singh Puri at the inauguration of the construction of the Kanpur Metro Projects primary section (PTI)

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath with Union Minister for Urban Afairs Hardeep Singh Puri at the inauguration of the construction of the Kanpur Metro Projects primary section (PTI)

UP has also seen CMs stopping or neglecting the projects of their predecessors, like the Mulayam government did not proceed on the Yamuna Expressway, while the Yogi government marked inquiries into the Gomti River Front.

Mayawati as the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh till 2012 built the Yamuna Expressway from Noida to Agra, the Ambedkar Memorial Park in Lucknow and Dalit Prerna Sthal in Noida. Akhilesh Yadav as CM coined the slogan ‘Kaam Bolta Hai’ in 2017, citing projects like Agra-Lucknow Expressway, Lucknow Metro, Gomti River Front and Jai Prakash Narayan International Centre in Lucknow.

Now ahead of the 2022 elections in Uttar Pradesh, BJP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is seeking to complete and showcase marquee project of his own. Top on the agenda is the Purvanchal Expressway from Lucknow to Ghazipur which the government is planning to make operational from September 1. The Yogi government is also aiming to make the Kanpur Metro operational in a priority corridor by the end of this year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi could also come to the poll-bound state soon to lay the foundation stone of two other big projects, the Noida International Airport in Jewar and UP’s longest Ganga Expressway.

The political history of the state however shows that such marquee projects have not helped the incumbent CMs coming back to power, as Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav discovered, and the caste calculus continues to rule the roost. UP has also seen chief ministers stopping or neglecting the projects of their predecessors, like the Mulayam government did not proceed on the Yamuna Expressway in his tenure while the Yogi government marked inquiries into the Gomti River Front and JP Narayan International Centre projects of Akhilesh Yadav, leading to their neglect.

While the Yogi Adityanath government has claimed to bring many transformative changes to the state like improvement of Ghats in Varanasi or the river-front in Ayodhya, the absence so far of a marque completed project sticks like a sore thumb for many in the BJP even four-and-a-half-years later. This explains a lot of focus on completing some key projects ahead of the 2022 assembly elections.

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Purvanchal Expressway

The 340-km long expressway from Lucknow to Ghazipur is “90% complete" as per the UP government and as per minutes of a recent meeting of the UP Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), the expressway is expected to be thrown open for public use from September 1. An incomplete Railway Over-Bridge is said to be the main hitch in completion of the project but UPEIDA has invited bids for hiring a tolling agency, a traffic management system and setting up wayside amenities and petrol pumps showing things are on track.

The Samajwadi Party has however been taking potshots, saying it was Akhilesh Yadav as CM who had awarded work also for this expressway but the Yogi government has been unable to complete it even after four-and-a-half years. SP also says that the Agra-Lucknow expressway was completed in Akhilesh’s tenure in little over two years. However, BJP says the Yogi government had to re-award work for this project to save costs against work awarded at much higher rates by SP government. The two Covid waves also delayed the project since 2021.

Kanpur Metro

While the Samajwadi Party government took credit for constructing the Metro in Lucknow and also did a pilot run in its term, the project was finally flagged off by the Yogi government which pointed out that it was the Centre which had funded and executed the project. The Yogi government and the Centre are now pushing for the completion of one corridor of the Metro in Kanpur, UP’s other big city, and plans to inaugurate it by the end of the year before the elections. Bids have already been invited for baggage scanners and security equipment for the metro.

Big Projects in Works

The foundation stone of the 594-km long Ganga Expressway from Meerut to Prayagraj and the Noida International Airport in Jewar will also be laid soon, with Yogi Adityanath set to seek the visit for PM Narendra Modi for the same. Nearly 76 per cent of the land for the big project has been acquired for the Ganga Expressway. The Yogi Adityanath cabinet last week also waived off stamp duty and registration fee for giving 1,334 hectares on lease to Noida International Airport Ltd for the airport, paving the way for work on the project to begin soon.

The biggest ongoing project which could however work for the Yogi government the most before elections is the Ram Temple in Ayodhya whose ground floor could start taking shape by the time of the UP elections as the foundation work of the project is expected to be complete by October. The BJP however sees the Ram Temple as a matter of faith of millions and not a political one, though it is expected to resonate very much as one during the elections.

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