|Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being felicitated as a sparse crowd (above) greets him at the election rally in Shillong on Friday. Pictures by UB Photos
Shillong, Feb. 15: The economist in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today revisited past “economic successes” with the hope that the Congress in Meghalaya would be able to retain power in the immediate future.
But Singh’s “emotional attachment with the Northeast” was clearly not reciprocated by the people of the state as the attendance at Polo ground was slender — around 3,000.
After landing at the venue in an Air Force helicopter, rows of vacant chairs greeted the Prime Minister notwithstanding the fact that it is his party which has a hold on most of the 60 constituencies.
However, the thin attendance may be forgiven and forgotten knowing that the soft-spoken Prime Minister does not have the record of being a crowd-puller.
While delivering a 20-minute prepared speech, Singh mostly delved on economic matters but failed to touch upon some of the burning issues confronting the state — militancy, influx, joblessness and the inter-state boundary dispute with Assam, which Singh has been representing in the Rajya Sabha for the past 22 years.
“I have always felt a strong emotional attachment with the Northeast and it is a privilege for me to represent one of the northeastern states in Parliament. I have considered myself fortunate that the people of this area have always showered love and affection on me,” Singh said at the beginning of his speech.
Turning his attention to the economy, the Prime Minister said, “During the Eleventh Five Year Plan, Meghalaya’s economic growth was faster than what was targeted in the plan. The plan size nearly doubled in the last three years to around Rs 4,000 crore.”
He lauded the Congress-led government in the state “for providing Meghalaya with an honest, transparent and effective administration”.
Describing the abode of clouds as a “special state”, the Prime Minister said in infrastructure, Meghalaya was one of the fastest growing states not only in the Northeast but across the country.
He spoke of the massive road infrastructure projects being executed in the state to boost connectivity, including widening of the Shillong-Guwahati Road to a four-lane one at an estimated cost of Rs 536 crore and the Rs 226-crore two-lane Shillong bypass route. “Both the projects are progressing well and are likely to be completed in the first quarter of 2014,” he said. He also pointed to the widening and improvement of the Shillong-Nongstoin-Tura Road and Shillong-Silchar Road and the proposed Jowai bypass.
Singh mentioned that the first railway line in the state from Dudhnoi in Assam to Mendipathar was in an advanced stage of completion and the expansion of the Shillong airport was being undertaken.
Touching upon the flagship programmes initiated by the UPA government, the Prime Minister said, “I am very proud to say that the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre has been able to achieve faster reduction in poverty than ever before. The rate at which the percentage of poor people in our country has declined since 2004 is about two-and-a-half times that of the previous decade.” He also said that all the flagship programmes of his government were being “successfully” implemented in Meghalaya.
Stating that the Congress manifesto has a “progressive and inclusive agenda” for Meghalaya, the Prime Minister pledged that the party would work for all communities and sections of society, particularly those which are socially and economically backward, would empower local self-governing bodies and would work for greater say of women in administrative decisions.
Appealing to the people to vote for the Congress, he said, “There is still much that needs to be done. There are many unfinished tasks that need to be completed. I urge you to vote for the Congress party so that the good work that the state government has been doing can continue.”