"I was mesmerised by the change," says an excited Sifat Khan, a
21-year-old who grew up in Australia and visited poll-bound Lucknow this winter after four years. She was thrilled to find
recreation spots, malls, well-lit roads and a changing lifestyle -
not to mention the renovated commercial hub of Hazratganj.
Barnstorming by political parties may be in full swing in the
current elections in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populated state
of over 200 million people and around 120 million voters. But many
of those from the state who live abroad are impressed with the
development work and applaud Chief Minister Mayawati's efforts,
saying it's no mean feat in this erstwhile city of nawabs and
currently at the heart of a fierce political battle for control of
the country's most politically consequential state.
"One thing that caught my eye was the Ambedkar Memorial Park,"
said Sifat, a medicine student based in Brisbane.
"The enormous and magnificent place drips with creativity. I was
in awe of the 62 huge elephant statues welcoming me," Sifat told
"Another great transformation was how organised Hazratganj has
become! I clearly recall being stuck in traffic for hours
witnessing street fights and brawls just to get parking at this
shopping centre. Now you see a wide expanded road with traffic
lights and multi-storeyed parking and its shoppers delight," she
Even though Maywati's opponents are training the gun on her and
say she has failed to bring development and has wasted and misused
central government funds, outsiders are happy to see the new
developments in the historical city, home to 4.5 million people,
which is focusing on better infrastructure and safety.
For Sanjana Singh, travelling to the city from the US was a great
"You keep hearing a lot of things on television but coming here
gives a different picture. As an outsider you feel safe in the
city and it offers good outing spots too."
Many NRIs from Uttar Pradesh were holidaying in their native state
in winter even as the state is in the middle of seven-phased
assembly polls. Lucknow, which has a population of 4.5 million,
votes Feb 19.
Some local people complain that much of the construction work has
benefited Mayawati's brother who is in the construction business,
but for Huma Khan, who works abroad as a consultant, what counts
is the development effort in the city.
Hazratganj and Gomti Nagar area have changed remarkably, she said.
"There are wide, three-laned, well-lit roads and there is the
Ambedkar Smarak. It's hard to believe it is the same Lucknow."
And clearly they have a good word for Mayawati, whose Bahujan
Samaj Party (BSP) has been in power since 2007.
"Many chief ministers came and went, but it is only Mayawati who
has tried to develop the city. The connectivity to the heart of
the city (Hazrarganj) and the airport are a compared to earlier
days," Huma Khan said.
The development is not centred in the state capital alone, points
out London-based Samrat Basu, who used to dread travelling by road
earlier. He says it is a delight to take a road trip between
Lucknow and Banda now.
"My visit this time was exceptional. I started my journey from
Delhi to Banda and I was very happy to catch the train UP Sampark
Kranti. The journey was very comfortable and safe," he said.
And he had a similar experience from Banda to Lucknow.
"The travel to Lucknow from Banda by train used to be a nightmare
due to erratic departure timings and trouble in boarding. So this
time someone suggested I travel by road. I was not confident, but
was amazed to see the construction of a long bridge on the Yamuna
river near Chilla Ghat.
This particular improvement by the
Uttar Pradesh government has connected Banda so well with many
cities by road. It took us only four hours to reach Lucknow and we
enjoyed the trip," Basu told IANS.
"I must be thank Mayawatiji for her enormous contribution and
vision to develop this city. We loved the advancement."
(Arpana can be
contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)