BJP looking for hat-trick in BundelkhandBJP looking for hat-trick in Bundelkhand

Virendra Singh Rawat

With the political heat keeping pace with the rising mercury in North India, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is betting on mega infrastructure project Uttar Pradesh Defence Industrial Corridor (UPDIC) to win at the hustings in arid Bundelkhand.

Four Lok Sabha constituencies viz. Jalaun, Jhansi (Jhansi-Lalitpur), Hamirpur (Hamirpur-Mahoba) and Banda (Banda-Chitrakoot) represent the seven districts of Bundelkhand in UP.

In 2014 and 2019 general elections, the saffron party won all the four parliamentary seats in rain-deficit Bundelkhand region, which was reckoned for migration due to backwardness.

Apart from aggressive campaigning, the BJP is harping on development projects to score over the opposition parties in quest for 2024 LS polls victory.

While UPDIC spans six nodes viz. Lucknow, Kanpur, Jhansi, Aligarh, Chitrakoot and Agra districts, the two critical nodes of Jhansi and Chitrakoot fall under Bundelkhand, which has an abundance of industrial land and connectivity via 296-km Bundelkhand Expressway.

So far, the UP government has cleared defence manufacturing projects worth almost Rs 25,000 crore and signed 140 memorandums of understanding (MoU) with public and private companies.

The mega Corridor is key to propelling the ‘Make in UP’ agenda of chief minister Yogi Adityanath and also contribute to India’s military ware self-reliance and export goals.

Moreover, the Yogi Adityanath government 2.0 has constituted Bundelkhand Industrial Development Authority (BIDA), with its epicentre at Jhansi, as a counter magnet to the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority (NOIDA) region in Western UP.

BIDA encompasses acquisition of 35,000 acres of land worth nearly Rs 6,000 crore in Jhansi.

The composite Bundelkhand region spans 69,000 sq km across seven districts in UP (Chitrakoot, Banda, Jhansi, Jalaun, Hamirpur, Mahoba and Lalitpur) and six districts in MP (Chhatarpur, Tikamgarh, Damoh, Sagar, Datia and Panna).

Meanwhile, a total of 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in UP including four seats of Bundelkhand and other VIP seats of Lucknow, Rae Bareli and Amethi will witness polling in the 5th phase on May 20.

While almost 5,000 hectares are proposed to be acquired by nodal agency UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) for UPDIC, about 1,700 hectares have already been acquired and allotted to investors.

The maximum of 1,000 hectares was given to defence sector investors in Jhansi, which is being developed as a hub for the production and testing of arms and ammunitions. Bharat Dynamics is the lead investor in Jhansi.

UPDIC and BIDA are also positioned to feed UP’s ambitious $trillion economy target by 2027-28.

In this backdrop, the BJP is piggybacking on these projects to accelerate its pro-development agenda especially in Bundelkhand and pitch them as a game-changer for the dry region, which was hitherto never fancied by big ticket investors.

For example, at the UP Global Investors Summit (GIS) 2023, the UP State Industrial Development Authority (UPSIDA) signed about 70 MoUs totalling Rs 11,500 crore for Bundelkhand, thus signalling that investors are warming up to the future potential of the region.

Recently, addressing a rally in UP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said areas in UP which were infamous for manufacturing ‘katta’ (illicit country-made firearm), were witnessing the development of a defence corridor under the Yogi Adityanath dispensation.

UP BJP secretary Dr Chandra Mohan Singh said the “double engine government” of the BJP had ushered in a robust development model for Bundelkhand, which in previous regimes were a virtual breeding ground for land grabbing and squandering of state funds.

“Bundelkhand is witnessing fast development under the BJP rule. We are confident that the big development projects including UPDIC, BIDA as well as Bundelkhand Expressway will ensure that the people will support us and give a clean sweep once again in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls,” he said.

However, principal opposition Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Udaiveer Singh attacked the BJP for the alleged smokescreen of development projects in the state.

“The BJP government has little to show on the ground so far as the Defence Corridor is concerned. The saffron party is a champion in propagating false narratives for vested political interests. The voters will teach the BJP a hard lesson in these elections, and the INDIA bloc will win all the seats in Bundelkhand,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, under the UPDIC, the prestigious BrahMos missile project is coming up over 80 hectares in Lucknow, while Aerolloy Technologies Limited, which makes aerospace parts and has supplied components to India’s Chandrayaan Mission, is also setting up its unit.

BrahMos is a joint venture between India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Russia’s NPOM to develop next generation supersonic missiles for the Indian forces.

The UPDIC MoUs signed so far include Adani Defence and Aerospace, BrahMos Aerospace, Ancor Research Labs, Tata Technologies, Bharat Dynamics Limited, Delta Combat Systems, SpiceJet Technic, Verivision, HAL, Gliders India, Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), Aerolloy etc.

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