(News) Centre placates Maya, will include 5 non-Bundelkhand districts for development

NEW DELHI: Centre will include five districts outside Bundelkhand for discussions on how to push the development agenda in the backward
seven-district pocket of Uttar Pradesh.

The move may help placate BSP-ruled state which boycotted Centre's joint meeting with Madhya Pradesh to work out how NREGA could be used to fill development gaps in the region which has 13 districts across states lagging far behind the rest.

Mayawati administration skipped the three-way Centre-UP-MP conclave in Orchha on October 14 attended by principal secretary to PM TKA Nair and a clutch of secretaries to GOI.

Now, a separate meeting is planned for UP after the November 10 byelections. It will include seven districts of Bundelkhand and five from elsewhere. Given the BSP regime's political reservations to the Central initiative, the non-Bundelkhand districts may help Centre convince UP that the meeting is inspired by development concerns and not linked to Congress's campaign in Bundelkhand.

Interestingly, while UP had political overtones to its public outburst against the Orchha conclave, officially it said the state merits an exclusive meeting owing to its size and the magnitude of issues.

While Delhi has conceded Lucknow's demand, Congress feels the opposition from UP is only helping it by conveying that Mayawati is pursuing a "politics over development" policy.

BSP's apprehensions are rooted in Rahul Gandhi's aggressive use of welfare plank to win over the poor in UP, particularly Bundelkhand. The Congress heir apparent's trips to Bundelkhand had not been taken kindly by UP's ruling party. He triggered more anxiety by leading a delegation of leaders from UP and MP to the PM to demand a Bundelkhand Authority to take care of development there. BJP and BSP regimes quickly vetoed the idea, citing that Centre was encroaching on their turf.

Congress sources, however, add that after MP attended the Orchha meet and UP agreeing for one, the party campaign was on the right track. Even without the Authority, there would be increasing intereaction between UP and MP which would put Congress in focus.

For instance, GOI and district officials of MP found that NREGA can give a push to agro-forestry by planting a "species of trees" on the borders of fields. It will increase tree cover in the parched region without affecting productivity.

Now, while the meeting only had MP participating, the suggestion has found a key role for a national centre for agro-forestry research in Jhansi (UP).

Sources said a pan-Bundelkhand interaction would test political reservations in BSP and BJP while conveying the message just as Congress has plannned.

Courtesy: TOI