The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tightfist for state, splurge for Advani

Ranchi, Nov. 12: The throwing open of state coffers to give deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani a red carpet welcome for Jharkhand’s statehood day celebrations has trained the spotlights on a glaring contradiction in the government.

Higher-ups in the Babulal Marandi ministry are being assailed with queries: If the BJP-led government can change the face of Ranchi in two weeks, what has it been doing for two years' Is it justified in spending through its nose just to impress Advani, that too only in the capital'

Though the state is yet to come out with an official estimate of the expenses, sources said nearly Rs 2 crore would be spent only to spruce up roads on which Advani will travel. This is apart from what will be spent to give a facelift to Morahbadi Maidan, the main venue for Friday’s celebrations.

Opposition parties and alliance partners alike have distanced themselves from the show. While rivals have attacked the “ostentatious” celebrations, partners Samata Party and Janata Dal (U) have dubbed them “a BJP affair”.

“What is happening reminds me of the then Orissa government uprooting fully grown trees and planting them elsewhere to project a green image before then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The Marandi government… (too) wants to convey an image that it has been serious about development.

“But the fact is that Jharkhand is set to go the Bihar way with at least 70 per cent of the budgetary allocation expected to lapse,” said a JMM leader.

Government sources, however, said the sprucing up was part of an “ongoing” project. “Widening of the road from HEC to Harmu was taken up almost a year back. The difference that Advani’s trip has made is that engineers have been asked to complete the project before November 15,” they said.

Departments assigned the task are racing to outdo each other. The lead was taken by the Jharkhand State Electricity Board, which has not completed the illumination at Morahbadi Maidan yet but is prodding the media to note its good work.

A Congress MLA pointed out how Chhattisgarh and Uttaranchal — born 15 days before Jharkhand — had refrained from wasting money. “Ajit Jogi said when some parts of Chhattisgarh were confronting a drought-like situation, he could not waste public money on a celebration. But here the point is to somehow please the bosses in Delhi,” he said.

A BJP official said the reason for the activism was the Godda bypoll in December.

“The BJP’s poll managers are wary of a defeat, especially after the Dumka debacle. The cosmetic surgery… is an attempt to ward off a negative reaction from the BJP’s central leaders in case the party cuts a sorry figure in Godda,” he said.

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