Raipur, March 8: How long should it take to transform 7,000 hectares of barren land into, say, a New York'
Thirty years, if you ask Ajit Jogi.
The Chhattisgarh chief minister’s dream project kicked off with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi laying the foundation stone of the new township that he would like to call Rajiv Nagar or New Raipur. About 15 km from the state capital, the dream city would take about Rs 21,615 crore to build.
The inauguration was hardly smooth. The Union government, the state BJP and Jogi’s rival, fellow Congressman V.C. Shukla, greeted Sonia with refusal to give environmental clearance, public interest litigations and a bandh call. The BJP and Jogi-baiters see the project as a “stunt” in an election-going state.
Leader of the Opposition Nand Kumar Sai and other BJP leaders questioned Jogi’s ability to undertake such a mammoth project when Assembly polls were less than eight months away.
“The Centre has made it clear it will not fund the project. The whole thing hinges on a premise that Sonia Gandhi will become Prime Minister and fund it,” said a disgruntled Congress leader.
The Jogi camp countered, saying his opponents had missed the basic point in Joginomics — the state has no business to do business. The chief minister, they said, was starting the project with Rs 75 crore in the current financial year relying on private investors.
The state’s task would be to build some government offices, roads and other infrastructure. The rest would come from private players,” a state minister said, pointing at the “pathetic” state of the capital where the Assembly was located in a college, a hospital had been converted into the secretariat and the chief minister was living in a bungalow meant for a district collector.
Sonia, too, was full of praise for the chief minister, who as a kid was inspired by the Indian bureaucracy but now sees Shahjahan and Muhammad bin Tughlaq as role models.
She insisted on taking him along in a helicopter, overruling the Special Protection Group’s objections. In Chhattisgarh, the Congress chief said, she did not need security in Jogi’s presence.
In three public speeches to mark the laying of the foundation stone, International Women’s Day and inauguration of a state-run sugar factory, Sonia targeted Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for “step-motherly treatment” of Congress-ruled states, anti-farmers policies and the BJP’s inability to “carry all sections of society along”.
Taking a cue, Jogi dubbed the BJP’s call to “boycott” the inauguration of the city project as an “insult to two crore Chhattisgarhis”.
The contract to build the “dream city” in three phases has gone to a consortium comprising PWD Consultants (P) Ltd of Singapore, the Delhi-based Consulting Engineering Services and Darashaw & Company (P) Ltd, Mumbai. Jogi said the global tender had attracted 23 “credible” bidders of international repute. Finally, 10 were shortlisted.
The second-best bidder comprising Zaidun Leengh of Malaysia, WS Atkins of the UK and the Nagpur-based Artefact Projects have been given the task of monitoring the project.