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Nitish and party in election mode CM on project launch spree

Patna, Jan. 12: Sights firmly set on Lok Sabha polls, chief minister Nitish Kumar is on a foundation stone-laying spree.

The chief minister recently laid the foundation stones of two flyovers, 509 godowns, 126 rice mills and an agriculture college. Next month, he would lay the foundation stones of three bridges worth Rs 2,839 crore. (See graphic)

Laying foundation stones of projects worth Rs 5,885.58 crore in the past two months hints at Nitish going into the “election mode” well in advance.

Believed to be a “fine craftsman” of power politics, Nitish has launched the mega projects after snapping ties with the BJP. According to sources, he is keen to start the work on all these facilities ahead of the imposition of the model code of conduct so that his party could reap “political mileage” from them.

A senior officer of the road construction department told The Telegraph: “The chief minister will lay the foundation stones of three new bridges next month — one across the Gandak at Bangra Ghat in Gopalganj on February 6, one over the Sone between Aurangabad and Rohtas districts on February 9, and another across the Ganga in Khagaria district on February 24.”

The officer said: “These three bridges will play a major role in the development of the state. You may assume their foundation stones are being laid before the implementation the model code of conduct, but the proposed projects will change the face of Bihar. The Bangra Ghat bridge will benefit more than 12 lakh people in Gopalganj, Muzaffarpur and Saran districts. Similarly, the bridge on the Sone will connect Aurangabad and Rohtas districts. The same goes with the Khagaria bridge. It will benefit people living in the area and the pilgrims from across the country attending the Shravani Mela.”

Benefits of masses notwithstanding, Nitish’s rivals criticised him for indulging in alleged “populism” ahead of the polls.

Former road construction minister and BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav said: “He is doing such things to gain the political mileage just before the Lok Sabha elections. Recently, Nitish inaugurated the Kosi bridge in Saharsa district before completion of the approach road.”

He added: “The people know very well under whose regime these projects got the approval and by doing these (inaugurating/laying foundation of projects) he will not get any benefit as such.”

The RJD Rajya Sabha MP, Ram Kripal Yadav, echoed Nand Kishore. “Whenever election time comes, he gets involved in populism. Forget about the big projects, he will not even miss the opportunity to lay the foundation stones of toilets,” he said.

The ruling party does not see any political motive behind Nitish unveiling projects or laying foundation stones of new facilities. “If anybody says that he is doing so with political motive, it is totally misleading. Before any foundation-laying ceremony, the cabinet gives the approval and the required funds are allotted. It does not take place in a day. Nitish sets deadline to complete a work and achieves it,” said food and consumer protection minister Shayam Rajak.