Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, along with Kanpur and Agra are among 27 centres picked on Tuesday to be developed as smart cities under the NDA government’s ambitious plan for an urban overhaul. These three cities are from the Samajwadi Party ruled Uttar Pradesh that goes to polls next year.
Two cities from Punjab Amritsar and Ludhiana also made it to the third list announced by Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday. The Shiromani Akali Dal, an NDA ally is in power in Punjab, which will elect a new assembly next year.
India plans to have 100 such cities by 2022. Sixty have been chosen, including 20 in January and 13 in May, the remaining will be picked by 2018. Meant to change the way urban India lives, smart cities will enjoy uninterrupted power and water supply, internet connectivity, e-governance along with quality infrastructure.
While no city from West Bengal and Bihar found mention in the third list, BJP-ruled states are the biggest beneficiaries. On the latest list, 10 cities are from states where the BJP is in power. This includes Maharashtra (Thane, Nashik, Nagpur, Kalyan Dombivali and Aurangabad), Madhya Pradesh (Gwalior and Ujjain), Rajasthan (Kota and Ajmer) and Gujarat (Vadodara).
Some of the opposition-ruled states have complained that the Centre’s urban modernisation plan promoted “regional inequality”.
West Bengal has decided to walk out of the smart city programme after it got one city, New Town on the outskirts of Kolkata selected for the project in May.
When the first list of 20 cities was selected in January, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar had said the list was tilted heavily in favour of the NDA-ruled states.
Only four cities Hubbali-Dharwad, Managaluru, Shivamogga and Tumkaru are from Congress-ruled Karnataka. Rourkela was the lone city from Odisha, where the BJD is in power, to make the cut. AIADMK-ruled Tamil Nadu got four cities – Madurai, Salem, Thanjavur and Vellore.
Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh where the Telugu Desam Party, a BJP ally, is in power also made it to the third list, as did two other states ruled by NDA partners Sikkim (Namchi) and Nagaland (Kohima).
The total investment in 27 cities that will be developed as “smart” is envisaged at about Rs 66,883 crore.
Smart cities are picked though a two-stage process. In the first stage, a state shortlists potential cities and send the names to the Centre. In the second round, these nominated cities compete with each other.
The Centre will give Rs 48,000 crore for five years for the programme. Each city will get Rs 100 crore a year. A matching fund of Rs 48,000 crore will have to be contributed by states.
The Centre has decided to allow both Jammu and Srinagar from the northern border state and Meerut and Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh to make a pitch for the smart city project. But, it has been made clear that only one city will be picked from each state. The two states are yet to take a final call.