What has prompted Varanasi's transformation with state-of-the-art infrastructure?
PM Modi's LS constituency Varanasi is in the midst of a complete makeover after being included in the government's Smart Cities Mission in the second phase. As per a Mint report, this congested city is being transformed to showcase new-age infrastructure ranging from a metro mail, multimodal terminal, logistics parks and waterways among others. What is Varanasi's relevance for BJP? Know about it.
A Union Government official told Mint that "Varanasi is the heart of Uttar Pradesh and the city has importance from several aspects- tourism, religion and politics." He claimed this was why Centre wanted to develop and present it as a model city.
Big projects have been proposed. Varanasi is shortlisted to test pod cars, a driverless rapid transport system that runs a designated course. Apart from this, a metro rail system worth Rs. 20,000cr and a multipurpose transport system worth Rs.1,000cr are also proposed. To ensure that no untreated sewage water goes into the Ganga, a Rs. 153cr sewage plant through a PPP model has taken off.
BJP's 2014 election manifesto had stated cleaning Ganga as one of the promises. As Uma Bharti, earlier minister of water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation, was unable to deliver, she was replaced by Nitin Gadkari to deliver results. Varanasi is important for the Jal Marg Vikas Project as a multimodal terminal is being developed. This project will connect UP to South-east Asian countries.
Varanasi received Rs. 130cr from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), when Japan PM Abe visited India, for constructing the Varanasi International Cooperation and Convention Centre (VCC). The VCC is expected to be "a platform for social, cultural interactions and knowledge exchange for the public."
Varanasi is politically significant as it is PM Modi's constituency. In 2017, UP Assembly elections, BJP won 5 of 8 seats in Varanasi. Thus, to ensure a dedicated voter base in this Hindutva citadel is important for Modi, which explains why most Varanasi projects are centrally-funded. We'll have to wait and watch what dividends this transformation brings to NDA in 2019 LS elections.