Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now made one-night stays mandatory for Union ministers who visit the north-eastern states -- an effort to send out a message that the insurgency-hit region is safe for all.
The directive comes two years after the Prime Minister's Office planned fortnightly visits of Union ministers to the region. Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said linking tourism and development in the Northeast and making it a tourist destination for people from all over the world is the "Prime Minister's dream ... To ensure that, he has asked all the Union ministers to not only take trips to the Northeast states, but also to stay the night there," he said.
Sources in the Tourism Ministry say the government is keen to change the popular perception about the Northeast as a "security nightmare" plagued with insurgency. "And what better way to showcase its safety than to have senior Union ministers stay there overnight," a source said.
As a result of this move, Sharma visited Assam in the first week of April to be part of the Namami Brahmaputra Festival, which is the biggest river festival in Guwahati.
Union minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju was also present during the event. Sharma will follow this up with a visit to Manipur tomorrow to attend the Siroy Lily Festival which began on May 16. Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) Jitendra Singh also visited the region in the second week of this month to participate in a tourism event.
The BJP's MODI (Making of Developed India) Festival, scheduled to begin on May 26 to mark the third anniversary of its government, is likely to be kickstarted from the Northeast by the prime minister. BJP president Amit Shah too had recently made a trip to Tripura.
"The focus of all these visits is to draw attention to the Northeast, build connectivity and attract tourists. In the next two years, the idea is to build on the victories in Assam Arunachal and Manipur and repeat it in 2019. This, they have decided, will be built on the plank of tourism in the region," said a senior official in the Tourism Ministry.