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What prompted Shivraj Chouhan to say Madhya Pradesh roads are far better than those in US?

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Was Chouhan, who is being ridiculed on social media, referring to the Silver Line construction eyesore?

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh (Courtesy of twitter)

(This post has been updated.)

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, chief minister of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, who is on a six-day visit to the United States, shocked quite few in this country and in India when he stated that roads in his home-state were far better than those in the US.

“When I got down at Washington Airport and traveled on the roads, I felt that the roads in Madhya Pradesh are better than those in the US,” Chouhan was quoted as saying by news agency Asian News International (ANI).

“I am not saying it just for the sake of it,” he added with a smile on his face. He was speaking at the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum meeting in Washington.

The reaction on the social media was quick and unforgiving.

A tweet by ANI has been retweeted nearly a thousand times and there are more than 1,300 comments.

Most of the twitter users who commented pilloried Chouhan for making that statement.

Here are a few  sample tweets:

Among the tweets, there are a number of GIFs and funny images, including a photograph of Chouhan being carried by two helpers while crossing a flooded area, apparently somewhere in Madhya Pradesh.

So what prompted the chief minister to make that statement?

Here is one possible reason: there are partial line closures on the Dulles Airport Access Road because of an ongoing expansion work of the Silver Line Metro, connecting Washington, DC, and the Dulles International Airport. It is possible that the chief minister’s convoy may have run into some traffic at the construction site on his way from the airport to the city.

Because of the work, a long stretch of road looks somewhat messy — and sort of an eyesore — and the chief minister, overanxious to sell his state to the Americans, may have decided to stretch the truth.

An undated Google satellite image of a small stretch of Dulles Airport Access road where Silver Line expansion work is ongoing.
An undated Google satellite image of a small stretch of Dulles Airport Access road where Silver Line expansion work is ongoing.

In his address at USISPF,  Chouhan underscored the need for basic infrastructure as a prerequisite for development, and said that his government has “connected all villages with roads.”

“A few years back, Madhya Pradesh was termed ‘BIMARU.’ When I became the CM 12 years back, I believed that without basic infrastructure, no state can develop. Our first focus was on building the roads,” Chouhan said.

But, in reality, Chouhan has been facing severe criticism from opposition parties in Madhya Pradesh for the poor quality of the roads. Though the state has 175,000 kilometer road network, the government has been criticized for the potholed rods in the state capital Bhopal and other parts.

Chouhan’s party leaders play down the criticism by accusing the Congress party, which ruled the state previously, of being responsible for the poor state of roads in Madhya Pradesh.

However, Chouhan hasn’t clarified what he meant while making such a statement. The chief minister has met several business leaders in the US and urged them to invest in his state.