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Doubts over power portfolio change

Bijendra Prasad Yadav, the man who played an instrumental role in strengthening the power supply system in Bihar, is suddenly out of the energy department.

The department has a big role to play keeping in mind former chief minister Nitish Kumar’s pledge to bring substantial improvement in power supply, failing which he would not seek votes in the Assembly polls in 2015.

Chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has now retained the energy department after the cabinet expansion on June 2.

Bijendra headed the energy department even when the 18-member Manjhi government was sworn in on May 20 after Nitish resigned from the post of the chief minister on May 17. However, when the Manjhi cabinet was expanded and 14 new ministers were inducted into the council of ministers on June 2, Bijendra’s portfolio, along with several other ministers, were changed.

Bijendra has years of experience in handling energy in the JDU government. First, he held the department from November 24, 2005, to April 13, 2008, and the second time, from November 26, 2010, to June 2, 2014.

Records suggest that Bijendra handled the department efficiently and effectively. During Bijendra’s stint as energy minister, the state government has performed remarkably, which is evident from the fact that power supply rose to 2,500MW in May 2014 from a meagre power supply or withdrawal of 600MW to 700MW in November 2005 when the Nitish government took over the reins of the state.

The energy department and the power companies took a whole lot of measures to improve the supply by strengthening the infrastructure.

During his regime, the state wiped off its stigma of having nil thermal power generation after one unit of 110MW of Muzaffarpur Thermal Power Station (MTPS) was dedicated to the state in November last year. Similarly, the other one unit of 110MW of MTPS and two units of Barauni Thermal Power Station (BTPS) would soon start generation after the renovation and modernisation.

One unit of the 660MW of Barh super thermal plant could be started any time and another 660MW would follow soon next year. The work on 1,980MW Nabinagar Thermal Power project too has started. Besides, power distribution network of Muzaffarpur, Bhagalpur and Gaya has been handed over to private hands through franchisees to ensure quality power supply and services in these towns. The state government has purchased 1,010MW under long-term agreement for 25 years from Essar and GMR Kamalanga, which would start supplying from July 2014.

But the sudden move to change Bijendra’s department could eclipse Nitish’s promises to improve the power supply scenario as he has gained much experience while dealing with the energy sector.

Progress Harmony Development Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s state chairman Satyajit Kumar said: “The decision to change Bijendra’s portfolio may mar Nitish’s aim of improving power situation before the 2015 Assembly elections. Bijendra was doing a good job in the energy department. His position should be strengthened.”

Asian Development Research Institute (Adri) member secretary and economist Shaibal Gupta said: “The decision to make Bijendra the finance minister is a good step as he has the experience of engaging himself on the question of public finance, planning and resource generation. Bijendra, who is known for his probity, has shown his mettle in the energy sector.”