The NDA government’s ambitious scheme to develop 100 smart cities kicked off on Thursday with the Centre announcing the names of the first batch of 20 urban centres that have made the cut.
Of the 20, nine cities were selected from BJP-ruled states — Gujarat (Surat, Ahmedabad), Rajasthan (Jaipur, Udaipur), Madhya Pradesh (Indore, Bhopal and Jabalpur) and Maharashtra (Solapur, Pune) — while four belonged to Congress-ruled Assam (Guwahati), Kerala (Kochi) and Karnataka (Belgaum and Davangere).
Poll-bound West Bengal did not make the cut as did Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
In fact, 13 cities from Uttar Pradesh were short-listed but all of them lost the first round. “Selection is one thing, qualifying for the project quite another. Population and the size of the state were cited as the two main reasons when UP got the maximum cities short-listed under the plan. I am sure our turn would come in the next round. It’s just a matter of timing,” an official said in Lucknow.
He pinned his hopes on the second list that is expected next year. “There is no question of a short-shrift because the state has sent 71 BJP parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha and state elections were due in 2017.”
But no city from BJP-ruled Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh made the first cut, giving the Narendra Modi government the shield to stave off allegations that the list was tilted towards the NDA.
Tamil Nadu, where assembly elections are due in a few months, got Chennai and Coimbatore on the list while Andhra Pradesh — ruled by BJP ally N Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP — have Vishakhapatnam and Kakinada.
Ludhiana in Punjab, which is ruled by NDA constituent Shiromani Akali Dal, made it too. As did Bhubaneswar, the capital of Odisha ruled by former BJP ally Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal.
Prime Minister Modi launched the programme last June to develop 100 smart cities, of which 20 were selected this year while 40 more will be listed in 2017 and the rest in 2018.
Each of the 20 cities will be given Rs 500 crore by the Centre till 2019 while states and urban agencies will chip in with an equal share of Rs 500 crore.
These were chosen through a “city challenge” competition, organised by the urban development ministry in collaboration with Bloomberg Philanthropies, a charitable organisation run by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The selection was based on scores that cities got for carrying out urban reforms in key areas, including sanitation and good governance, as well as the financial sustainability of the smart city proposal that they have submitted.