The Master of Gimmicks
Posted June 3, 2016on:
Narendra Modi is no match to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in inventing public relations gimmicks. The smart city project for Bhopal is his latest hit.
One day some time back it fell out of the blue that Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar would be developed as the smart city. These two localities are situated in the middle of what is known as new Bhopal. Many well off people, including businessmen, politicians, journalists and senior government officials live there. There is a lot of greenery in the area. It was estimated that some 50,000 persons would have to be dislocated and between 30,000 and 40,000 trees would have to be felled.
This, as was expected, led to an uproar. A former chief secretary took the initiative to chalk out a protest programme. Environmental experts became active. Young boys and girls assembled and threatened to launch a ‘Chipko Andolan’ (which was started by Chandi Prasad Bhatt, Gaura Devi, Sudesh Devi and others in the Tehri forests in the 1970s) to save the 50, 60-year old trees. The people’s representatives (almost all belonging to the ruling party as there are hardly any belonging to the Congress) also expressed their muffled protest at the proposal for displacement of such a large population and destruction of so many trees. The government officers also expressed their anxiety at the proposal.
Just then, Shivraj singh Chouhan announced that with a view to respecting the people’s sentiments and saving the trees, it had been decided not to build the smart city in Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar localities but shift it to North T T Nagar locality. Next day while newspapers were full of people’s gratitude for Chouhan’s humane and environment-friendly gesture, he visited the North T T Nagar locality with a large number of cars carrying government officials and some of the people’s representatives. For the next two days the Bhopal newspapers carried apparently sponsored stories (with identical contents) telling the readers about the Chief Minister’s love for people as well as his concern for environment.
In the midst of all this an interview given to a local newspaper by Home Minister and former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur got lost. Gaur was quoted as having told the newspaper that when the proposal for smart city was discussed with the people’s representatives, mention of Shivaji Nagar and Tulsi Nagar was never made.