Ahead of UP polls, Modi lays ₹36k-cr expressway stone

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Lucknow: Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Saturday for boosting development and eliminating crime as he accused political opponents for obstructionism months before the high-stakes elections in the state.

Laying the foundation stone of the 36,250 crore Ganga Expressway in Shahjahanpur district, Modi paid tribute to freedom fighters and underlined the benefits of a “double-engine” government, a reference to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) being in power both at the Centre and in the state.

“UP plus Yogi bahut hai upyogi (UP plus Yogi is very useful),” Modi said. Adityanath is hoping to steer the BJP to a second consecutive term in India’s most politically important state.

Poor law and order triggered an exodus of people from the state earlier, but Adityanath cracked down on criminals and the mafia, Modi said. “In earlier days, as the sun set, people with katta (country-made pistols) used to roam the streets and make the lives of people hell,” the Prime Minister said. “That culture of katta ended under the Adityanath government.”

This is the second high-profile expressway project Modi has inaugurated in the poll-bound state in the past 30 days. When completed in 2024, the 594km expressway will be the state’s longest, passing through 12 districts and connecting Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh to Prayagraj in the east.

A 3.5km air strip to assist emergency take-off and landing of planes will also be constructed on the expressway in Shahjahanpur. At least one industrial corridor is proposed to be built along it.

The expressway will usher in opportunities, employment and growth, Modi said, stressing on the importance of the double-engine BJP government. “The kind of energy and vision required to run a state as big as UP is being shown by this double-engine government,” he said. “This project will not only bring east and west UP closer, but would also reduce travel time between Delhi and Bihar.”

Modi attacked political opponents, who had a problem with the country’s “virasat aur vikas (legacy and development)”. “They had a problem with virasat due to vote bank concerns and with vikas to ensure that the poor remained dependent on them,” he said.

“These people have a problem with the construction of a grand corridor of Baba Vishwanath in Kashi and with the construction of a grand temple of Lord Ram in Ayodhya,” Modi said. “These people have a problem with the swachhta (cleanliness) campaign of Ganga and these are the ones who question the army’s action against terrorists. They also put the corona vaccine developed by Indian scientists in the dock.”

He told the audience that power supply in the state was earlier limited to a few districts but has improved since then. The state government has provided eight million free power connections, Modi said.

“Earlier, big-ticket projects were announced only on paper so that these people (opposition) could fill up their treasury. And now, they are being announced to save your money and time,” the Prime Minister said. “Today when bulldozers raze unauthorised properties of mafias, the pain is felt by those patronising them.”

The country’s resources belonged to the people and not “a handful of families”, Modi said, while talking of how his government had provided houses to three million people and set aside 2 trillion for the purpose.

He paid glowing tributes to freedom fighters Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan and Roshan Singh, who were born in Shahjahanpur. “Tomorrow is the martyrdom day of Pandit Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqullah Khan and Thakur Roshan Singh. These three sons of Shahjahanpur, who challenged British rule, were hanged on December 19. We owe a huge debt to such heroes who laid down their lives for the country’s freedom,” he said, adding that a grand memorial for the freedom fighters will be built in Shahjahanpur.

Soon after the foundation stone laying event, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati said people should be wary of such announcements closer to the elections. “Now, nearer to the elections, despite five years of a double engine government, meaning 10 years in all, the Ganga Expressway has been inaugurated after bifiurcating it in two phases. For long would people continue to be duped by such selfish politics? People need to exercise caution as it is important to do so during elections,” she said in a series of tweets.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav tweeted, “Hathras’ daughter, Lakhimpur farmers, Gorakhpur traders, unsafe women, unemployed youth, daily and backwards all are saying the present government is ‘unupyogi (useless)’ than ‘up-yogi’.”

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