With election on his mind, PM Modi does a ‘Meerut’ in Raipur

Air service between Raipur and Jagdalpur was inaugurated by PM Modi amidst fanfare. But on the day, jokes could be heard that this was like the 9-km stretch of the 82-km Delhi-Meerut expressway

IANS photo
IANS photo
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Sudiep Shrivastava

The day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasted that his government provided air links to places where roads did not exist, the flight from Vizag to Jagdalpur was cancelled for want of clearances, and it set tongues wagging.

The air service between Raipur to Jagdalpur had been inaugurated by the PM with the usual fanfare that accompanies such announcements by him. But on the day, people could be overheard joking that this was like the nine kilometre stretch of the 82-km expressway between Delhi and Meerut, a long way from getting completed, that he inaugurated last month just ahead of the bypoll in Kairana. Assembly elections are scheduled in Chhattisgarh by November 2018. And the PM’s frequency of visits is in keeping with the schedule.

The PM’s declaration gave the impression that even Jagdalpur, which is the divisional headquarter of Bastar, was not connected well by road with Raipur. The kind of image the national media has created about Naxal insurgency in Bastar, people outside Chhattisgarh would have believed what the PM had sought to convey.

But as a matter of fact, a National Highway from Raipur to Vijjayanagram (old NH 43) has been in existence for many decades. That’s the lifeline of the entire Bastar region and its condition was always reasonably good even in the old MP days where several other important roads of the state were in a very bad condition. This NH connects Kanker, Kondagaon as well as Naagarnar on this road ahead of Jagdalpur where a NMDC mega Steel Plant is coming up (construction began before 2014).

The PM is a smart politician and he is aware that his scorecard is not satisfactory in terms of development, employment and economy. So, he needs such tricks to paint a rosier picture. The Prime Minister of the country is expected to act as a statesman rather than a 24x7 politician. But that is not to be

People residing in Chhattisgarh always considered Raipur-Jagdalpur road as one of the best in the state. In fact, this 297-km stretchwas covered by this writer while driving an Innova SUV in 3 hours 10 minutes plus 35 minutes for a halt in 2006. This highway was always considered safe in terms of Naxal violence also with very few incidents in the last 20 years.

Jagdalpur airstrip was originally made for the use of security forces including defence planes. APJ Abdul Kalam used to come to Bastar when he was serving as a scientist. It is widely believed that Defence Ministry has some strategic interest in Bastar.

Naturally the Bastar airstrip required less work and time to be converted into an airport under Udaan scheme which is aimed to commect C class cities to B class cities by air using small planes.

A 18-seater plane of Air Odisha was flagged off by the Prime Minister, who managed to create the impression that Bastar till then was an area cut off from the rest of the state. The PM is a smart politician and he is aware that his scorecard is not satisfactory in terms of development, employment and economy. So, he needs such tricks to paint a rosier picture. The Prime Minister of the country is expected to act as a statesman rather than a 24x7 politician. But that is not to be.

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