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Prime Minister Narendra Modi Takes Forward Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Vision For North East

Written By Gunja Kapoor | Mumbai | Published:

One of the many hallmarks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure is his concerted efforts to empower North East India, by providing infrastructure support, political stability, socio-economic reforms and reduction in left-wing extremism. Although critics are quick to conclude that political capital is the only motivator behind Modi Government’s push to mainstream the otherwise neglected North-East India, it is an apt day to remind them that Narendra Modi is merely taking Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ‘Look East’ policy forward. Unfortunately, most initiatives started under the Vajpayee led NDA I, to invigorate the socio-economic framework of Northeast India were very tacitly mired by a decade of Congress-led UPA, for reasons beyond a committed citizen’s common wisdom.  

Today, as India celebrates Atal ji’s birthday in the form of Good Governance day, Prime Minister decided to pay tribute to the late Prime Minister, by inaugurating India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge, connecting Assam’s Dibrugarh on the south bank to Dehamji in the north. It is worth mentioning, that there is high synergy between the way the PM Vajpayee and PM Modi have addressed the impediments and leveraged on the opportunities in the region.  

Some of the discourse altering initiatives Vajpayee ji spearheaded to further the cause of Northeast include:

  • The Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (MDONER) was established by the late Prime Minister in 2001, and given the status of full-fledged Ministry in 2004. The ministry aims to create economic opportunities and requisite infrastructure in the NE region. The Ministry is currently headed by Shri Jitendra Singh.
  • Neglected for decades together, due to political reasons, Vajpayee ji refused to take ‘lack of funds’ as a reason for lack of development in the region. In 1996 he announced “New Initiatives for North Eastern Region’’ which entailed: All Union Ministries to spend 10% of their allocated budget towards the development of NE region. 
  • Moreover, if a particular Ministry was unable to spend that money, the same would be transferred to Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR), which would then be used to expedite implementation of certain ongoing projects
  • As a part of Vajpayee ji’s mission to Fast Track Bharat, the East-West corridor connecting Silchar, Assam to Porbandar, Gujarat was announced. 
  • Atal ji knew that a majority of Bharat continued to reside in villages, and he could not put launch India on the growth trajectory, till every village had accessible to markets. The Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana, in its bid to provide all-weather road access to all villages/habitations of population greater than 500 people (250 in case of hill States), was a catalyst in connecting far flung areas of North East with towns. This was a step towards providing economic sustainability to the North East.
  • In 2000, when Prime Minister Vajpayee addressed the North-East Conference, 2000, on Regional Development and Security Issue at Shillong on the occasion of 27th Meghalaya Day, it was the first time ever that such an event had been held in the region. 
  • On the one hand, he allocated INR 10,000 crore more than the previous 5-Year Plan, on the other hand, he firmly believed mere economic incentives were not enough to uplift the region. 
  • Indeed, a very heartening moment to note that Bogibeel bridge see the light of the day, it is unfortunate that it took 16 years, from the time Vajpayee ji laid the foundation stone in 2002 to 2018, when PM Modi inaugurated the structure. The unprecedented delay escalated the cost by 85%

North East the “New Engine” – PM Modi.

Tracing the orbit of achievements dotted by the Modi led BJP assumed office, it can be safely said, that the Prime Minister and his team clearly took it upon themself to bring North East closer to Delhi, both, physically, by ways of adding for flights and trains, and, inwardly, by making frequent references to the region in public speeches, organizing business summits, conducting elections, developing tourism, horticulture and much more. 

The PM personally visited the NE region more than 30 times in 4.5 years.

Under the leadership of BJP, left-wing extremism has been successfully tackled the region. Meghalaya, Tripura and multiple districts of Arunachal Pradesh saw the withdrawal of Armed Forces (Special Power) Act (AFSPA).

Dhola-Sadiya Bridge, to connect Assam with eastern Arunachal Pradesh was inaugurated by the PM. On the occasion the PM had said, “If Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji had returned to power in 2004, then you would have got this bridge 10 years ago”.

It is interesting to know that like the Bogibeel Bridge, the idea of Dhola-Sadiya Bridge was yet again conceived, by the Vajpayee Government, when MLA Jagadish Bhuyan wrote to him, for the same. 

With the help of schemes like SAUBHAGYA and Deendayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana, even the last village in North East i.e. Leisang, Manipur was declared electrified. 
PM Modi’s Act East Policy Aligned to Vajpayee ji’s Vision.

There is a stunning semblance in the way two BJP Prime Ministers have committed themselves to both, infrastructure and social development of North East region. They both believed that the region needs a healing touch, which cannot be fulfilled by additional allocation of funds alone.

They both removed the ‘tyranny of distance’ syndrome that Indian media and civil society suffered from, by being there in person and allotting dedicated leadership for the region.

Vajpayeeji in one speech said, “We need to collectively focus our attention on these areas so that today's weakness can be converted into tomorrow's strength” – a message repeatedly echoed by Shri Narendra Modi on multiple occasions.

Strengthen the State leadership to ensure governance is delivered and there is effective implementation of policies on the ground level. Vajpayeeji strived to revive local body elections in the region. The incumbent has ensured these elections are peacefully executed, and people's participation in democracy is encouraged.

Similar to Vajpayee ji, the PM worked on insurgency, skill development, job creation, rural electrification, tourism, infrastructure, federal cooperation, governance and social progress. It was a decade long hiatus of colossal negligence that stalled regional development for a decade which resulted in political annihilation of Congress in the region. I believe the political dividends that BJP has reaped in the recent past are a consequence of the commitment shown by its leadership in the region over the past few decades.

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