This ‘BSP’ could haunt BJP in Madhya Pradesh

By Sanjay Sharma, IANS,

Bhopal : “BSP” is proving to be quite a headache for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Madhya Pradesh. But it isn’t a rival party. It is simply short for ‘bijli’, ‘sadak’, ‘pani’ – or electricity, roads, water.

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The three issues have come back to haunt the government as the state elects a new assembly Thursday. Ironically, in the 2003 polls, it was the BJP that had coined the acronym to successfully take on the then Congress administration on these very problems.

Take, for instance, the case of electricity. The state, on an average, needs some 6,200 MW of power during the peak period and it remains short by around 1,500 MW.

“We had voted the BJP to power so that our grievances, which had multiplied during the Congress rule under Digvijay Singh, would be redressed. But this government too has belied our hopes,” said Ramesh Baghel, a small farmer on the outskirts of Bhopal.

About 47 percent of the available electricity is lost in transmission and distribution with the result that villages get power for barely two to four hours, that too not at a fixed time.

“In the case of power, the situation is even worse than those Congress days. During the earlier government, we used to get power for irrigation at a scheduled time but now there are no fixed timings,” said Baghel.

Added Babulal Mehra, another farmer in Berasia: “Many a time, power is supplied after midnight. We are required to get up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to irrigate our fields! They (BJP) promised that our power woes would be solved within 100 days of assuming power but a full five years have passed and this government has done nothing concrete”.

Under the BJP government, the condition of roads has improved. But this has happened at the fag end of its term. It has also been announced that about 1,700 villages would be connected with roads – constructed under the Prime Minister’s Rural Roads Scheme – soon.

Rued Chandra Prakash, a businessman: “Only some highways that lead to the districts of important ministers like the chief minister and the public works department minister have been paid attention while the remaining ones are full of potholes.”

Suresh Yadav, an MBA student, said: “This government has promised to connect the villages having a population of more than 1,000 people with pucca roads and now the BJP has promised in its manifesto that each village with a population of more than 500 would be connected with properly asphalted roads. I would like to ask them that what happened to their earlier promise?”

As far as water is concerned, this is the first time it is being supplied on alternate days, that too at very low pressure. The situation is bad even in Bhopal, the state capital of Madhya Pradesh, where drought is becoming a regular phenomenon.

In the last 15 years, 14 to 39 districts have been facing a distress situation due to drought every year. As per the reports of the Madhya Pradesh public health engineering department, there were 9,000 habitations provided with less than the minimum requirement for an individual, that is, 40 litres per person per day.

Alarmingly, the number of habitations in crisis has gone up to 15,000 by 2007-08, the department’s report says. The number of habitations having “no water source” has also increased by more than five times compared to 2001.

Tens of millions of rupees meant for providing clean drinking water, claims the opposition, have been misused by politicians and bureaucrats.

About three years ago, the state government got a loan of Rs.1.79 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). It was supposed to help streamline the drinking water supply in Bhopal but the situation has gone from bad to worse.

“This is the first time in the history of Madhya Pradesh that water is being supplied at an interval of one or two days even in the state capital. The government says there have been no rains. Recurring drought has been a phenomenon for the past several years but we never had it so bad,” A.N. Tripathi, a school teacher, lamented.

“What has this government, which promised to bring the Narmada river waters to Bhopal, been doing for the past five years?”

So while the BSP is commonly understood to be the acronym for Bahujan Samaj Party, in these state polls, the other ‘BSP’ too could spoil things for the BJP.

(Sanjay Sharma can be reached at [email protected])