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The Rediff Special / George Iype
April 20, 2004
Many people in Lucknow like Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the prime minister of India.
But most people in the capital of Uttar Pradesh are unhappy with Vajpayee, their member of Parliament.
When he won the Lok Sabha election from Lucknow in 1999, Vajpayee sold a dream to Lucknowites. 'I will make Lucknow another Bangalore,' he had then said.
People had hoped Vajpayee would bring Information Technology giants like IBM, Microsoft and Hewlett Packard to make Lucknow the Silicon Valley of North India.
"Forget Bangalore. There are no software companies worth the name in Lucknow. Vajpayee may be a good prime minister; but he has not done anything great for Lucknow," points out Anil Dubey, a computer engineer who runs Tejas Systems at Tej Bahadur Sapru Marg.
Across the constituency, 'Vajpayee is a good PM, but a bad MP' is a common refrain.
"They say India may be shining, but Lucknow is not," says Dubey. "He (Vajpayee) does not have time to look after Lucknow. So development has not trickled down here much."
Agrees Govind Singh, a footwear shop owner in Gomti Nagar, "Lucknow is seeing lots of development these days because of the Mulayam Singh Yadav government and the Sahara Group."
But what ails the country's most VIP constituency? Here is a brief checklist:
Residents of Lucknow sweat it out thanks to at least 4 or 5 hours of power cuts across the city every day. Irate consumers recently beat up electricity officials because a housing colony went without power for two days.
The biggest problem is drinking water. The city faces an acute shortage of drinking water.
All ten civic hospitals in the city are below par. Patients who go there do not receive medicines, and there are few doctors to attend the needy.
Extortionists and gangsters rule many parts of the city. Brijendra Murari Yadav, who organised senior BJP leader Lalji Tandon's birthday bash in which 21 women and a child were killed in a stampede, is reportedly someone with dubious credentials.
Poverty is rampant across Lucknow. Proof of it was in the thousands of women who jostled and fought with one another for a saree worth just Rs 40 being distributed at Tandon's function.
To know the real Lucknow constituency, travel to Mahona, a village some 30 kilometres outside the city.
Also Read: Mahona, the village refuses to vote
What are called roads are nothing more than potholes. The water taps are dry and people do not know what electricity is.
But people in Mahona are not bothered whether Vajpayee has been successful in providing basic amenities of life. So Surendra Yadav, a rickshaw puller says he along with his five-member family will vote for Vajpayee.
"Because he is the prime minister of India," Yadav reasons.
Have you seen Vajpayee? "Yes. When he came for last election's rally in Lucknow. I saw him them," he says.
Development or no-development, Mahona villagers like Yadav will vote for Vajpayee.
But Vajpayee's aide, the sari stampede-scarred Tandon dismisses allegations that the prime minister has done nothing for his constituency.
"Vajpayeeji has implemented social projects worth Rs 1,000 crore in Lucknow in the past five years," Tandon says.
"A biotechnology park is being set up in Lucknow; Vajpayee laid the foundation stone for 10 sub-stations to generate electricity for the power-started city; he launched the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Road Project by which some 1,000 village outside Lucknow would be connected with the city; he launched the Balmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana; he also embarked on 50 Lucknow beautification projects. The list goes on," says a proud Tandon.
But many projects Vajpayee launched have either been abandoned or incomplete. The 10 power sub-stations that Vajpayee launched are incomplete even after five years. Nobody knows what has happened to the Lucknow beautification projects.
"I have not seen Lucknow transformed into a beautiful city. Where has all this so-called Rs 1,000 crore gone?" asks local Congress leader Akhilesh Das.
Das withdrew his candidature against Vajpayee after Ram Jethmalani changed his mind after initially deciding to withdraw his candidature from Lucknow.
"Vajpayee may be a good man with noble intentions. But his supporters have looted the money he has allocated for Lucknow," alleges Das.
Image: Rahil Sheikh