With Lucknow topping the list of 13 more cities that will be developed under the Centre’s ‘Smart City Mission’, the Akhilesh Yadav government in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh gained some brownie points as BJP national vice-president and Lucknow Mayor Dinesh Sharma credited him along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the development.
Lucknow had failed to find a place in the first list of 20 cities selected to be developed as Smart Cities by the Centre about four months ago. The UP capital and 22 other cities, which failed to get representation in the first round, participated in the ‘Fast Track Competition’, the result of which was announced by Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu Tuesday. Of these 23 cities, only 13 could qualify for the Smart City Project through the fresh competition.
In its proposal sent to the Centre for Fast Track Smart City Competition, the state government had highlighted projects including the Metro rail and the Gomti river front development — the two pet projects of Akhilesh.
The senior officers in UP government, however, did not rule out possibility of politics behind Lucknow topping the second list. Lucknow is the Lok Sabha constituency of Home Minister Rajnath Singh who is also considered the leading contender as BJP’s chief ministerial candidate in the poll-bound state, a senior officer said requesting anonymity. Soon after his election in 2014, the Centre had approved an Outer Ring Road project for Lucknow and the Ministry of Defence too had granted the go-ahead to several state government projects that were pending clearance.
Meanwhile, Dinesh Sharma credited the development to CM and the district administration along with Modi and Naidu. Sharma, whose second consecutive term as Lucknow Mayor will end next year, also sought to pat his own back. “The Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) has improved in the fields of sanitation, road development and traffic management. We are going to draft a water policy too. We have imposed a penalty on open defecation and burning of waste in the open,” he said.
Asked why Lucknow did not figure in the first list released in January, Sharma said the state capital then had some shortcomings in area of traffic management and holistic development of heritage zone. “But, now we have improved in these areas,” Sharma told The Indian Express.
Sharma also said that a special purpose vehicle (SPV) will be formed for execution of the Smart City proposals. He said that 813 acres in Kaiserbagh has been earmarked for area based development project. The drainage system and water supply will be improved, underground cabling will be done and LED street lights will be installed in the city, he added. “Awadh Walk, Re-creational space, International Cultural and Heritage Centre and International Tourist Information Centre are proposed to be set up,” Sharma said, adding that various such projects will be developed with expenditure of Rs 2,053 crore. The Centre and state government will contribute Rs 500 crore each while the rest of the amount will integrated on PPP mode and converges.
Lucknow district magistrate, Raj Shekhar too credited Lucknow making it to Smart City list to the infrastructure development undertaken in the city during the past few months. The DM said that the development of the Metro rail is already in progress and cycle tracks have been developed in the city. He said there is a plan to run CNG buses for public transport and several new CNG filling stations will also be sanctioned.
While announcing the names of the new entrants to the list in Delhi, Naidu said that Lucknow improved the quality of its Smart City plan by 19 per cent to make it to the select list of 13 cities. Naidu also informed that the tie between Meerut and Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh will be resolved by allowing them to participate in the Smart City competition.