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Why Modi sarkar will miss Venkaiah Naidu

By Sahil Makkar
July 20, 2017 10:42 IST
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He was proactive and the force behind the ongoing reforms in the urban development ministry

Venkaiah Naidu might have got the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) nomination for vice-president for being a vocal supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but his performance as Union Minister for Urban Development has been impressive, according to government data and also those who worked closely with him.

Jagan Shah, director of the National Institute of Urban Affairs, says that Naidu was proactive and the force behind the ongoing reforms in the ministry.

“Urban development is a state subject and moving states in the right direction can sometimes be a stupendous task. Naidu had the ability to work across party lines.

He shared good relationships with Opposition leaders and his seniority in the Cabinet helped him push schemes,” Shah says.

One such scheme was the redevelopment of railway stations under the Smart Cities project, in which Naidu had played an active role by getting the railways on board, says Shah.

“He was very attentive and was always updated about progress of various schemes under his ministry.”

It would be a challenge before the new minister as the success of many flagship schemes such as the Smart City Mission, Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (Amrut), Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), and Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) largely depends on the implementation of projects by states.

Smart City and Amrut are under criticism as only a handful of projects under both the schemes are under the implementation stage.

But critics say Naidu had laid the foundation with the help of the Prime Minister’s Office and cabinet secretariat.

“Laying foundation is the most difficult work. Naidu ensured that the timelines of drafting rules, regulations and policies were strictly followed. It is an achievement to launch so many schemes within three years of government.

The ministry created a competitive framework and states had to compete with each other to get funding,” says an official in the urban development ministry.

The official says some results are visible in the BJP-ruled states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh because of Naidu’s personal relations with the chief ministers.

The credit rating of municipalities or urban local bodies also took place because of Naidu’s active involvement. This helped municipalities such as Pune to raise money through bonds.

Gulam Zia, executive director at Knight Frank India, says the other biggest achievement during Naidu’s tenure was the passing of the much awaited Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA).

“Though it was in the pipeline even before the NDA came to power, Naidu didn’t allow many states to dilute the provisions of the Bill. He didn’t extend the timeline of implementation of RERA despite many representations from various bodies and states governments,” Zia says.

“His departure would create a vacuum in the ministry,” Zia adds.

The ministry seemed to have performed better under Naidu’s leadership when compared to its functioning under the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.

For instance, on average 150,000 houses were built every year as compared to 80,000 during the 10-year rule of the UPA.

Photograph: Reuters

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Sahil Makkar in New Delhi
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