The shifting of the last batch of 148 of students from the Rajiv Gandhi Indian Institute of Information Technology, an extension campus of IIIT-Allahabad to the main institute has again brought “Politics over Amethi” into focus. The constituency has been represented by Gandhi family members for the past three decades but Congressmen have been crying neglect firstly by state government and now by the NDA Government at the Centre for the past two years.
After the formation of the NDA government at the Centre, RGIIIT is the fourth project to be shifted out of Amethi. While the BJP says that these projects had become unviable following long delays and the slow speed of work, the Congress, on the other hand, alleges “political vendetta” by the BJP-led government as the seat is represented by Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha.
Former Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani, who had unsuccessfully contested the 2014 Lok Sabha election against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi but received a decent vote share and is a constant visitor to Amethi since then, announced during her visit to the constituency three months ago that the institute would shut down as it has “failed to address the issues of local youth of Amethi”.
The institute was established in 2005 and was one of the pet projects of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi who first got elected to the constituency in 2004. An extension centre of IIIT Allahabad, it was named Rajiv Gandhi IIIT established in Tikarmafi village of Amethi.
The idea behind the institute was to bring development to the region surrounding the institute and motivate local youth. However, after requests from IIIT Allahabad that it was becoming difficult to maintain the extension campus which should have be given independent status instead, the HRD ministry under Irani ordered the formation of a committee headed by then IIIT Kanpur Director Indranil Manna to look into the feasibility of the project.
The committee submitted its report last year, saying the institute had done little for the local youths and was instead an inconvenience for the faculty and the students. Students had also complained that the place did not have much to offer with poor facilities on the campus.
While the BJP and the Congress indulged into allegations and counter-allegations over cancellation of these projects i.e. first Rs 200 crore worth Mega Food Park, then Jagdishpur based paper mill of Hindustan Paper Mills, the National Centre for Vehicle Research and Safety early this year and now RGIIIT, the fact remains that most of the projects had shown little progress on the ground. When Congress led UPA Government was at the Centre, the BSP-led Mayawati government in the state had questioned the logic of projects for Rae Bareli and Amethi.
However, the Akhilesh led SP government which came to power in 2012, decided to give them the required land following the due process. While Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav claims that he gave land and other clearances as required for the projects but had little to do with the cancellation of clearances and approvals at the Centre, the Congress alleges connivance between SP and BJP to stop the so called “development of Amethi”.
With 2017 elections around the corner, and the Congress taking its battle to Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we might see more of “politics over Amethi”. The Congress won only two out of five assembly seats in Amethi in the last assembly election and is desperately looking for faces who will ensure a better chance of victory this time. While, Smiti Irani has also remained in constant touch with the constituency, launching welfare schemes, distributing gifts from time to time, the BJP has yet to offer any major project for Amethi.