Shillong, Feb. 11: The Northeast will not be denied the opportunity to shine, not in the ads at least.
Union health and family welfare minister Sushma Swaraj today said the region would definitely find mention in the second part of the “India Shining” series, to be released before the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll dates. “We do not intend to leave out the Northeast or any other part of the country from the campaign. All sections of society will be equally represented.”
Swaraj was in the Meghalaya capital for a meeting of the governing council of the Northeastern India Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences at Mawdiangdiang. She claimed that the institute, after completion, would be second only to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.
The outspoken leader interacted with BJP activists this morning and asked them to highlight how the region has gained from the party’s policies.
The India Shining campaign has evoked negative reactions from the region, especially Assam. The advertisements have been collectively described as an exposition of “India without the Northeast”.
Assam Governor Lt Gen. (retd) Ajai Singh and chief minister Tarun Gogoi said recently that the India Shining series was incomplete.
In Meghalaya, most political parties, especially the Congress, said the BJP had omitted the Northeast from the campaign because it had not done anything for the region.
New chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy said the other day that taxpayers’ money should not be used to gain electoral advantage. He spoke of upholding “the spirit of the code of conduct”, but clarified that the Election Commission could not prevent a campaign like the one launched by the government because the dates for the Lok Sabha poll were yet to be announced.
Swaraj defended the campaign, saying the idea of launching the India Shining series stemmed “from a desire to project development taking place across the country”. She said the publicity blitz would continue until the Election Commission’s model code of conduct took effect.
On Delhi’s plans for the Northeast, the Union minister said two business summits had been held in as many years to attract investors to the region. She said the healthcare sector would take giant strides in the next few years. “The NDA has a separate agenda for the Northeast and the department for development of the northeastern region is a manifestation of this,” the Union minister said.
The Union minister yesterday said a nursing college would be set up at the Northeastern India Gandhi Regional Institute of Health and Medical Sciences, which is expected to be commissioned by July.
The BJP leader said the institute would have “nodal telemedicine centres and forward connectivity with one medical institute of the Northeast, besides a backward linkage with the AIIMS”.
Swaraj brought cheer to Assam, too, saying Delhi was eager to upgrade one of the medical colleges in the state.
Zoramthanga in NDA
Mizoram chief minister Zoramthanga’s Mizo National Front (MNF) today gained entry into the NDA, reports PTI from New Delhi. “The NDA is glad to admit the MNF as a constituent unit,” defence minister and NDA convener George Fernandes said in a letter to Zoramthanga.
The letter was in response to a request by the MNF leader that his party be admitted to the NDA. The acceptance came just two days after Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal parted company with the NDA, becoming the ninth party to have deserted the ruling alliance since it came to power in 1999.