Wednesday, February 26, 2014

India's first river-linking project takes shape: will it revitalise BJP's fortunes?

Before the general elections, the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government has gifted the Malwa region India's first ever river-linking project to solve the problem of water scarcity there.

As part of the Narmada-Kshipra link project, Narmada's water has been lifted to 350 metres and through pipelines spread over almost 49 kilometres to Kshipra river in Ujjain, about 15 kilometres from Indore. Inaugurated by senior BJP leader LK Advani on Tuesday, the first phase of the project was completed in a record time of 14 months. 

Interlinking of rivers was former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee's dream project in the NDA government, but it has started taking shape only 10 years later. To commemorate the project, BJP's top brass has gathered in Ujjain.

"When all phases of the project are complete 3,000 villages, 72 towns will get drinking water and water to irrigate 16 lakh acres of land," said Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

The project has three more phases which will connect river Ganga to three rivers - Gambhir, Kalisindh, Parvati. Malwa region, which will benefit from this project, is water scarce. Since the BJP did not do well in the 2009 general elections here, the project is also being seen an attempt by the BJP to woo voters in the region. However, BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was missing from both the stage and the posters at the two venues of the event.

Mr Advani praised the state government's effort and at the same time pushed the party's agenda. "Supreme Court has recommended that central government should work on linking river scheme. The next government will work for it and Shivraj has already started the work by linking Narmada and Kshipra," he said.

The project has been inaugurated just a few weeks before the model code of conduct is imposed before the Lok Sabha elections. The people from Malwa have their own take on the timing of this inauguration.

"Shivraj has done a commendable job it is better than the proposed sawarkhedi dam as it would have displaced people from villages," said one Anil Sharma.

Whereas, another resident Rahul said, "Just before Lok Sabha polls both parties are doing politics. Shivraj with this river project scheme is trying to ensure BJP's victory in Malwa region."