Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee has spurned the NDA government’s offer to make New Town (Rajarhat) a smart city. This was the only place in West Bengal to have been picked up by the Centre for a smart make-over.
Though Mamata had initially grumbled against the union government for not including a single city of Bengal in the first list of smart cities, her sudden volte-face is being read as both political and pragmatic.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has ruled out all possibilities of debt restructuring and a debt waiver, leaving Mamata fuming. Her unconditional support for GST has failed to reap any dividend.
She has now decided to go on an all-out offensive against the Modi government. An alliance between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP would not have gone down too well with her minority voters.
But for all practical purposes, she has a valid reason to say no to the offer. In a smart city project, the Centre gives Rs. 500 crore for developing the city on smart lines. The state is supposed to give a matching grant of another Rs. 500 crore for continuity. The financial situation of the state is such that accepting the project will entail an additional financial burden.
“The priority of the chief minister is to ensure the continuity of the social welfare projects and so she has instructed to cut down unnecessary expenditure, other than those expenses,” said an officer of the finance department.
Mamata has already initiated a move of beautifying New Town, and feels that the smart city project would not be necessary. Moreover, the people flocking to this part of the state are not her potential voters, political leaders feel.
Smart is out, but Mamata is looking to make New Town a ‘green city’, whatever she means by that.