An expressway from Lucknow in central Uttar Pradesh to Ghazipur at the eastern end of the state that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is inaugurating on Tuesday has sparked off a war of words between the BJP and Samajwadi Party, with both rushing to claim credit just before the assembly elections.
The reason: Akhilesh Yadav as Chief Minister had conceived the Purvanchal Expressway project but it has been completed at a time when the BJP has been in power in the state for almost five years and at the Centre for seven years.
For the BJP, Modi’s arrival in the poll-bound state for the inauguration is a big symbolic event. As for the SP, while it has claimed credit – and even thought of taking out a bicycle rally to rain flowers over the expressway – it has also accused the government of delaying the completion and using material of inferior quality to complete the road.
Akhilesh Yadav has said that the foundation stone was laid by his government and the project was supposed to be completed in two years. He has said that bitumen wasn’t used and in order to reduce the expense, quality plastic and rubber waste wasn’t used the way it was supposed to be.
“The one who travels on this may have backache or stomach ache,” Yadav told journalists. “Ram Ram japna… Aadha bol diya, ab aap poora keejiye (Chanting the name of Ram… I have said half the proverb, please complete it).” He was referring to a Hindi saying: Ram Ram japna, paraaya maal apna (chanting the name of Ram and appropriating what belongs to others).
Yadav claimed that while the BJP considered building toilets its greatest achievement, there was no toilet on the expressway.
Yadav said that if his party had made the expressway, it would have been better than the Agra-Lucknow expressway. He accused the BJP of having changed the contractor and getting inferior work done.
The BJP on its part mocked Yadav, saying that he would claim credit for building the Ram temple at Ayodhya next.
For the ruling party, the inauguration of the 340-kilometre expressway is a shot in the arm just before a high-profile state election that many consider the semi-final before the 2024 Lok Sabha poll, as UP sends 80 MPs to the Lower House.
With the start of this expressway, a state that was poor on infrastructure till some years back will have expressways running from west to east. The Yamuna Expressway built by Mayawati starts from Greater Noida and goes to Agra. From Agra, there is a functional expressway to Lucknow. Now, Lucknow will get connected to the eastern periphery of the state near the Bihar border by an expressway. It will pass through Barabanki, Ayodhya, Ambedkarnagar, Amethi, Sultanpur, Azamgarh and Mau on its way to Ghazipur. There will be link roads to reach Varanasi, Ayodhya, Gorakhpur and Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad). The total cost of the expressway has been Rs. 22, 494 crores.