Uttar Pradesh’s political optics for inaugurating its 341-km Purvanchal Expressway and 302-km Agra-Lucknow Expressway had an uncanny similarity. A fighter jet from the Indian Air Force performed a touch-and-go back then. PM Narendra Modi landed on the Purvanchal Expressway on Tuesday.
Both events took place in November, barely three months before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav was in attendance, as well as his father, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. The biggest political attraction for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Tuesday was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when incumbent Yogi Adityanath looks to extend his term in power in Uttar Pradesh.
This highway stretches, from west to east, from Greater Noida Expressway, Taj Expressway, and Agra-Lucknow Expressway. However, Yogi Adityanath and the BJP would like to end the similarity right here. The Samajwadi Party lost power in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections in March 2017. During the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections, the Samajwadi Party won only 10 assembly seats in the 10 districts traversed by the Agra-Lucknow Expressway. The BJP won 48 seats. Both the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Congress could win one seat.
Purvanchal Expressway, however, could present a different issue as the BJP has historically invested heavily in eastern Uttar Pradesh, especially in the past seven-eight years. PM Modi and CM Yogi both hold seats in Purvanchal. Since the 1990s, Yogi Adityanath has represented Gorakhpur in the Lok Sabha. During the 2014 Lok Sabha election, PM Modi brought new energy to the BJP. The party now dominates the region.
To win the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections early next year, the BJP must keep its mojo intact in Purvanchal. This explains why BJP leaders, including PM Modi and party president JP Nadda, have been visiting the region. On Tuesday, PM Modi made his third visit to Purvanchal in a month after visiting the region twice in five days in October. Earlier, PM Modi inaugurated Uttar Pradesh’s third international airport in Kushinagar.
For the people of Varanasi, he dedicated development projects worth Rs 5,229 crore. At a public rally in Siddharthnagar, he announced nine medical colleges and hospitals with 2,500 beds. Purvanchal Expressway was built at a cost of Rs 22,497 crore and within three years on what PM Modi described as ‘just a piece of land’. Purvanchal Expressway runs from Chaudsarai in Lucknow to Hydaria on National Highway-31, 18km east of the UP-Bihar border. Lucknow, Barabanki, Amethi, Ayodhya, Sultanpur, Ambedkar Nagar, Azamgarh, Mau, and Ghazipur are among the nine districts it passes through.