With the crucial Lok Sabha elections 2019 set to be held in Eastern Uttar Pradesh constituencies in the remaining three phases of polling, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is planning to highlight the Rs 23,000 crore Purvanchal Expressway project for electoral gains.
The mega 350 km expressway, which is already under construction, would link the socioeconomically backward region of Eastern UP, popularly known as Purvanchal, with the state capital of Lucknow.
The expressway would provide seamless connectivity between Eastern UP and National Capital Region (NCR) via the 165 km Agra-Greater Noida Yamuna Expressway and the 302 km Agra-Lucknow Expressway, thereby reducing travel time and boosting trade prospects through faster transportation of agricultural and industrial products.
“The expressway would become a lifeline for the entire Purvanchal region and it would have a cascading effect on all the constituencies coming in its purview,” UP industrial development minister Satish Mahana told Business Standard.
He said that the BJP would definitely apprise the people about the work being done by the central and state governments even as he expressed confidence of mustering people’s support for the party as in the 2014 Lok Sabha and 2017 UP assembly elections.
Purvanchal Expressway would traverse 9 districts viz. Lucknow, Barabanki, Faizabad, Ambedkarnagar, Amethi, Sultanpur, Azamgarh, Mau and Ghazipur. It would be linked with Varanasi and Gorakhpur through link roads.
In January 2019, the Adityanath government had also cleared the proposed 91 km Gorakhpur Link Expressway project, estimated to cost an additional Rs 5,555 crore, to link Gorakhpur with the Purvanchal Expressway.
So far, 39 constituencies in UP have already witnessed polling in the western part of the state and the remaining three phases of polling on May 6, 12 and 19 would see polling in 41 constituencies in Eastern UP, including a few Central UP seats.
Meanwhile, BJP candidate from Gorakhpur and popular Bhojpuri film star Ravi Kishan pointed out that the Purvanchal Expressway was a specimen of the development agenda of the Adityanath government to give a major fillip to agriculture, commerce, tourism and industrial development in the region.
“There is already so much awareness among the people about the welfare schemes launched by the BJP government pertaining to electricity, toilets, cooking gas, pension, farmers, roads and air connectivity, medical facilities etc. We just need to reach out to the masses and simply remind them of these projects and schemes,” he observed while sounding sanguine about his electoral prospects.
In 2014, BJP had won 71 of the total 80 Lok Sabha seats in UP, while its ally Apna Dal had scooped another 2, thus making it 73 of 80 for the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
In 2017 UP polls, BJP and allies had won 325 of the total 403 assembly seats, virtually decimating the opposition, including Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Nonetheless, the political equations have metamorphosed in these polls with UP witnessing a tough triangular contest between BJP, Congress and SP-BSP combine.
Last year, BJP had lost the two parliamentary bypolls in the key Gorakhpur and Phulpur constituencies at the hands of the combined opposition, although these seats were earlier represented and vacated by UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his deputy Keshav Prasad Maurya, respectively.
While the saffron party claims that the bypolls were not fought to elect the prime minister, these elections are now being contested for the re-election of party mascot PM Narendra Modi, who is a candidate from the Varanasi seat, where polling is due in the last phase on May 19, before the counting of votes takes place on May 23.