‘Sonia’ization of Indian Roads

published on January 7, 2010

BJP objects to Sonia’s picture on NHAI billboards

Pioneer News Service | New Delhi

It might be lagging behind severely on highway projects but its report card has not really deterred NHAI from doing some public relations (PR) exercises. The prime implementing agency is all set to put up 1,488 billboards with photographs of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi every 25 kilometre on national highways. What is even more interesting is that maximum billboards are being put on highways in States with non-Congress Governments.

According to NHAI, maximum billboards — 282 in number — will be put up on highways in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar and Jharkhand. Interestingly, these are the States which have non-Congress Governments and do not boast of a good national highway network so far. About 249 boards will be put up on national highways in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana. A total of 170 display boards are planned in Andhra Pradesh, 126 in Maharashtra and Goa, 120 in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, 108 in West Bengal and Orissa and 91 in Karnataka and Kerala.

A circular has been issued to all its Project Directors regarding provision of display boards at 25 km interval on both sides alternatively in English, Hindi and the local language. The facts came to light in a reply to an RTI application filed by activist Subhash Chandra Aggrawal, who sought information on the expense that will be incurred in erecting these billboards.

The BJP objected to the Government’s decision saying it was ‘highly objectionable’ and demanded that ‘not a single penny’ should be spent on this. Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha said the matter was not only about useless expenditure, but questioned in what capacity the picture of Sonia Gandhi would be displayed on these bill boards.

“I can understand if Prime Minister’s photographs are there. But in what capacity do Sonia’s photographs will be put up? This is highly objectionable. The Government wants to take the credit away from former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee who brought a revolution in the highway sector,” Sinha told reporters.

The former Union Minister pointed out that Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s photographs on billboards about the Government’s scheme were covered before the Lok Sabha election and finally removed after the polls.

“But no one even thought to remove Rajiv Gandhi’s name and photograph from the billboards about the rural electrification scheme named after him. I would also charge the Election Commission of not taking action in this matter,” Sinha added.

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