More than a year since its launch, the National Democratic Alliance’s flagship village development project appears to be facing a massive credibility crisis – even among members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The second phase of the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana should have started rolling out by now, but most parliamentarians want to discontinue their association with the project after a bitter experience in the first spell.

A BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh said the prime minister’s pet project was nothing more than “an empty vessel” – an opinion shared by three other ruling party MPs and four Opposition lawmakers who spoke to

In October 2014, each MP was asked to adopt a village and develop it into a model settlement by 2016. While Lok Sabha members could choose a village in their constituency, Rajya Sabha MPs were given the option of picking any village in the state they represent.

The hype created by the Centre at the time resulted in the majority of MPs – 499 out of 543 members of Lok Sabha and 198 out of 245 members of the Rajya Sabha – quickly suggesting their villages of choice to the Union rural development ministry, the nodal agency for the implementation of the project.

Inherent problems

In the second phase of the project, MPs were supposed to submit the names of a second village to the ministry by the end of 2015, so that arrangements could be made for the adoption of these rural settlements in the beginning of 2016.

However, the Modi government is now finding it rather difficult to locate MPs – even within its own camp – willing to adopt another village.

Earlier this month, Union Rural Development Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh personally wrote to every MP requesting them to pick a second village for adoption by the end of January.

Despite the deadline a mere fortnight away, not many replies have been forthcoming. Thus far, only 28 out of 543 members in the Lok Sabha and seven out of 245 members in the Rajya Sabha have reverted to the ministry.

“It is pointless to continue with a project which has got some inherent problems,” said Sushmita Dev, a Congrss MP from Silchar in Assam. “The scheme does not provide for any separate allocation [of funds]. The model village is to be developed by special privileges under various schemes for rural development. This obviously means some sort of deprivation for other villages in the constituency.”

D Raja, a Rajya Sabha MP and Communist Party of India member, feels the scheme unfairly endangers a parliamentarian’s reputation. “This project creates too many complications. It makes an MP look inept and untrustworthy because it fails to satisfy the raised expectation of the residents of the model village in the absence of any allocation, and leads to a lot of anger in other villages.”

Anticipating trouble, Raja chose not to participate in the “drama” right from the start and does not want to adopt a village in the second phase either. “Most MPs have realised the problems now,” he said.

Home discomforts

Parliamentarians from the ruling BJP are equally unimpressed by the SAGY in its present form.

Said a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh who did not wish to be named: “The scheme has changed nothing in the village I adopted last time, except that it has weakened my position in the constituency.”

Three other BJP MPs – one each from Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – were not inclined towards adopting a second village in their respective constituencies despite their initial enthusiasm when the project was launched in 2014.

“What is the point of continuing with the project when you know that it would, instead of delivering anything, make you look like a fool in your constituency,” said a BJP MP from Rajasthan.

Shantaram Naik, the Congress MP representing South Goa, said the government should either scrap the project or provide separate funds for the development of adopted villages. “There is nothing intrinsically wrong in MPs playing the role of social catalysts. But it does tend to raise some questions when you are asked to play that role through a project like this,” he said.

Janata Dal (United) MP Ali Anwar said the project has made returning to his adopted village or to the neighbouring rural areas an unpleasant experience. “People in adopted village are angry because their expectations are raised but not met,” he said. “And residents of other villages in the neighourhood are angry because they think they are deprived of something that has gone to the adopted village.”

The silent rejection of SAGY does not only amount to failure of one of the ruling alliance’s flagship projects. Worries about the negative political fallout are also indicative of an emerging trend – the stakes are getting higher and parliamentarians have begun thinking of the next general elections even with the present Lok Sabha having completed barely one-third of its term.