With BJP pressurising the Akhilesh government to choose Meerut and Congress pushing for Rae Bareli as the 13th city from Uttar Pradesh under the Centre’s Smart City Mission, the state has sent a proposal to the Union government urging that UP’s quota be increased to 14 so that both cities could be selected.
State Chief Secretary Alok Ranjan, who heads a high-power committee set up to select cities for the central scheme at the state level, said the UP government has sent the proposal after the Centre asked it to chose either Rae Bareli and Meerut for the programme. “So far, we have not received any response from the Centre. The committee is going to meet on September 21 to discuss the issue,” Ranjan added.
Sources in state urban development department said that in the absence of any positive response from the Centre, the state will have to select one city in the September 21 meeting.
Earlier, the Centre had decided to select 13 cities from UP to be developed under the project. In August, Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had released list of selected cities from across the country. It featured 12 cities from UP — Moradabad, Aligarh, Saharanpur, Bareilly, Jhansi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Lucknow, Varanasi, Ghaziabad, Agra and Rampur.
As Rae Bareli and Meerut had scored equal marks (75) when it came to fulfilling criteria for selection under the project, Centre had asked UP to recommend one among them.
While Rae Bareli is the Lok Sabha constituency of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Meerut is a BJP stronghold as the local MP, mayor and most MLAs belong to the party.
After the Centre asked the state to take a final call, BJP leaders and Sonia’s office have both approached the government. While Sonia’s office has contacted the state urban development department to ensure that Rae Bareli is not “discriminated” against, BJP mayor in Meerut, Harikant Ahluwalia, had met Naidu claiming that the UP government had first chosen Meerut but later added Rae Bareli as it was “biased”.
Meerut MP Rajendra Agrawal and BJP state president Laxmikant Bajpai, who is also the local MLA, too have demanded that Meerut be given preference. Further, the BJP has backed a Meerut bandh call given on September 15 by Sayunkt Vyapar Sangh to push for the demand. On Sunday, BJP leaders met traders to ask them to keep their establishments shut on Tuesday.
The Sayunkt Vyapar Sangh has also announced that its members will gherao Vidhan Bhavan in Lucknow on September 21 when the state committee will meet to choose between Rae Bareli and Meerut.
Bajpai said: “BJP is supporting the traders’ bandh call because Meerut deserves to be selected for the smart city programme. If it was neglected, I will appeal to the Centre to verify how the cities were marked during selection.”
Sanyukt Vyapar Sangh secretary Gajendra Sharma, also the BJP media in-charge for Meerut, said: “Meerut is a education hub, has a sports goods’ market and falls in NCR. Hence, it should be selected as a smart city… The UP government has given equal marks to both Rae Bareli and Meerut with political intentions.”