Former bureaucrat AK Sharma, known to be the eyes and ears of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Uttar Pradesh like he was once in Gujarat, has been given the key ministries of urban development and power clearly with a strategy of strengthening the infrastructure in the cities and the industrial investment.
When Sharma was the Secretary at Modi’s CMO in Gujarat, he was associated with several pet projects of the Chief Minister including organising the Vibrant Gujarat investor summits. He is also known for his planning skills and generating new ideas.
Another important reason for Sharma, who belongs to eastern UP’s Mau district, being given urban development and power ministries is his earlier experience of handling the industrial and related departments.
It was in this background that Sharma took over as Secretary to CM Modi in 2001 and became the prime mover of the Vibrant Gujarat summits and accompanied Modi abroad to attract investments to the state.
His proximity to Modi could be understood from the fact that when he went abroad for a year-long training, the post of Secretary was kept vacant until he returned. He never tried even for a central deputation.
Similarly, his word at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) would be considered as from the top boss while his businesslike and mild-mannered ways to getting things done ensured Sharma did not ruffle any feathers.
Given that the power scenario, besides the law and order, is in a pathetic state in Uttar Pradesh, Sharma’s bureaucratic and industrial Gujarat experience would help him drastically improve the scene there ahead of the crucial 2024 Lok Sabha elections. It is known that every Chief Minister’s performance in UP is often measured by the improvement in the power scenario and law and order.
It is significant that urban development has not been getting its due stress by successive governments until recent years in UP, except some select areas in select cities. As the chief minister of Gujarat, Modi focussed not only on the cities but the neo-urban areas. In fact, it was Modi who introduced the terminology “rurban” (peri-urban areas) in Gujarat.
This is also the reason that under the Yogi Adityanath Government, there was renewed focus in improving the road network, including national highways with Central Government’s proactive support.
It was after former chief minister Akhilesh Yadav claimed that the Lucknow Metro was done the fastest, metro projects were initiated in other cities on a war-footing.