Next year, on 21 and 22 February, the Uttar Pradesh government will play host to a large array of prospective investors at a global summit in Lucknow in its effort to fast-track growth in the state. With the Union government also ready to pitch in, prospects of the state’s transformation look brighter than ever before.
To ensure that the event catches eyeballs, President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be special invitees. For the fourth largest economy, which contributes around 8.4 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the state government is looking at making the most of this investors’ summit.
Prime ministers of Nepal and Mauritius, besides ambassadors of about 20 countries are expected to attend the summit, where about 5,000 corporate delegates would also be present.
The state government has roped in Ernst & Young as consultants. There will be 12 focus areas for the upcoming summit: agriculture, food processing, information technology, tourism, medium, small and mini enterprises, manufacturing, health etc.
The summit is crucial as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government wants to fulfil its promise of providing jobs to youth and uplift the agriculture sector. During the election campaign, the party had said that its government would create jobs to stop migration of youth to Maharashtra, where they were often targeted by Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and Shiv Sena. About farmers, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath recently said that they play a key role in the state’s development.
In the tourism sector, the Taj Mahal, which was the centre of a controversy a few months ago, was amongst the state’s main selling theme for the summit.
The state government has pulled all stops for what an official said would be a “grand summit”. The challenge would lie in translating this opportunity into real business, an official reportedly told the media.
However, this is not the first global investors’ summit to be organised in the state. The Samajwadi Party (SP) government of former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s government organised two such summits, one in 2013 and the other in 2015, when memorandums of understanding (MoU) worth over Rs 33,000 crore were signed.
Before that Mayawati, who led the Bahujan Samaj Party government, also tried to woo investors with a summit in Mumbai.
Private investment during the first four years of Akhilesh Yadav’s rule was estimated to be around Rs 25,081 crore as compared to about Rs 10,000 crore during the first four years of Mayawati’s rule.
Yet both the governments failed to bring about any remarkable change in the state’s profile. While Akhilesh Yadav’s government was found wanting on the law and order front, Mayawati’s government was infamous for corruption. Although MoUs worth thousands of crores were signed, Uttar Pradesh was hardly any better than states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana in terms of economic indicators.
Even before Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati laid the red carpet to prospective investors, Mulayam Singh Yadav had also done his bit by constituting a state development council under the chairmanship of the controversial SP leader Amar Singh. Singh roped in the who’s who of India’s corporate world and Bollywood stars and began selling dreams to the people. But barring a few crony capitalists and Bollywood stars who loved dancing to Sahara Group chief Subrata Roy’s tunes, others chose to stay away from the state.
With crime and corruption at their worst in those days, investors preferred other destinations like Gujarat and, especially Andhra Pradesh, where Chandrababu Naidu played a proactive role in cutting red tape and setting up an effective mechanism for single-window clearances.
This time around, Yogi Adityanath government is leaving no stone unturned in making the summit a big-ticket event. Road shows are being held in all major cities and investors are wooed with promises of industry-friendly atmosphere. In Bangalore, for example, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited, expressed her interest in investing in the state’s hugely neglected health sector.
With this event, comparisons are bound to be made with the Vibrant Gujarat summits that Narendra Modi was used to host as the chief minister of the state. The Vibrant Gujarat events helped in creating the image of Modi as a business-friendly administrator, in tune with the needs of the modern economy. With time, the headlines on Vibrant Gujarat turned into the headlines on the ‘Gujarat model’. Add to this the fact that while back in the mid-2000s, Modi was the most popular of all BJP chief ministers, in 2017, it is Yogi Adityanath. Safe to say then, that the Lucknow summit would be followed closely, and not only for purposes of finance.
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