Yogi photo-finish for unfinished stadium

BJP was in such a hurry to change the stadium’s name that it had no time to write the new name on the wall

By Piyush Srivastava in Lucknow
  • Published 7.11.18, 3:17 AM
  • Updated 7.11.18, 3:17 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
Yogi Adityanath (centre) at the newly inaugurated Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana International Cricket Stadium in Lucknow on Tuesday. (PTI)

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath on Tuesday renamed a cricket stadium and opened the partially completed structure hours before the scheduled start of a T20 international, the hurried inauguration leaving many wondering if it was a desperate move to claim credit for another government’s work.

The Ekana International Cricket Stadium — renamed Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana International Cricket Stadium — was inaugurated around 11.30am.

India’s T20 match against the West Indies got under way seven and a half hours later, at 7pm.

“We have renamed it Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana International Cricket Stadium,” Adityanath said after the opening.

Sources in the Lucknow Development Authority said the stadium, started when Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav headed the Uttar Pradesh government, was yet to meet some specifications for international matches.

“While the stadium is complete from a layman’s point of view, we know that some technical aspects with regard to crowd, one or two dressing rooms and parking of vehicles are yet to be called perfect,” an LDA official said, asking not to be named.

LDA vice-chairman P.N. Singh said the authority had given the stadium a temporary “partial completion” certificate.

“A permanent certificate will be issued after all works are completed,” Singh told reporters.

The stadium, on the outskirts of Lucknow, had been in the making for at least six years when Akhilesh approved the project after taking over as chief minister in 2012.

Earlier, in 2007, the then Mayawati-led BSP government had, in the course of expanding the Bhimrao Ambedkar Memorial in Gomti Nagar, demolished a stadium named after the Dalit icon.

Following widespread protests, from residents as well as sportspersons, Mayawati had promised to build an international stadium in the state capital.

The government later acquired 137 acres on the outskirts of Lucknow’s Gomti Nagar Extension for the proposed stadium to be built with a private partner.

But Akhilesh shelved the BSP government’s project and approved another with minor changes in its map. He had planned to inaugurate it before the 2017 Assembly elections and got the structure built by January that year.

But a bruising turf war with uncle and party leader Shivpal Yadav took up much of his time and the Ekana International Cricket Stadium — named after Ekana Sportz City Private Limited, the government’s private partner that designed it — couldn’t be inaugurated before the elections. The BJP swept the polls and Adityanath took charge in March 2017.

The Adityanath government, after some fencing and painting work, renamed the stadium after former Prime Minister Vajpayee, who died in August this year, with the government officially approving the change on Monday night.

After Tuesday morning’s inauguration, Adityanath told reporters an agreement had earlier been reached with Ekana Sportz City that the government would rename the stadium.

Sources said the agreement had been reached when the construction started in 2013.

Adityanath had last year re-inaugurated the Lucknow-Agra Expressway a month after taking over, while Union home minister Rajnath Singh had inaugurated the Lucknow Metro in September 2017. Both projects had been completed when Akhilesh was in power.

Akhilesh had inaugurated the expressway in December 2016 but a delay in the arrival of bogies meant the Metro rail service couldn’t be started when the Samajwadi Party was in power.

On Tuesday, Santosh Yadav, an Akhilesh supporter, brought out a full-page advertisement in some Lucknow newspapers thanking the former chief minister for the “Ekana Cricket Stadium in which (the) entire world will watch (the) international T20 match today”.

Samajwadi spokesperson Rajendra Chaudhary told reporters: “The BJP government doesn’t believe in doing development work; it believes in taking credit for the work of others.”

The BJP government was in such a hurry to change the stadium’s name that it didn’t get time to write the new name on the wall, Chaudhary added. “There is still Ekana International Cricket Stadium written there.”

Uttar Pradesh sports minister Chetan Chauhan said the stadium was completed after the new government took over.