| Nitish Kumar
Hajipur, Sept. 30: When Nitish Kumar breaks a coconut tomorrow to open the headquarters of the new East-Central railway zone here, the Rajdhani tragedy, political divisions and disenchantment of uprooted officials will cast a long shadow on the occasion that symbolises his biggest triumph over Mamata Banerjee.
Kumar will be the lone “star guest” from Delhi to attend the inauguration meeting, which has been kept “low-key” in the wake of the Rajdhani derailment.
The crossfire over the accident — Kumar had blamed sabotage initially, only to be rebuked by Laloo Prasad Yadav who pointed fingers at poor maintenance — had derailed a rare political consensus in Bihar over the Hajipur standoff.
Almost all political parties, including Laloo Prasad, had lined up behind Kumar in his high-decibel battle with Mamata Banerjee to carve Eastern Railway and make Hajipur the hub of the new zone.
However, the unseemly squabble over the Rajdhani accident has isolated Kumar, and the divisions are likely to make themselves conspicuous at tomorrow’s meeting.
Laloo Prasad, who had praised Kumar last month for his “dogged efforts for Bihar’s development”, has turned one of his vociferous critics. He has accused Kumar of committing “mayhem on the tracks” — an allusion to the Rajdhani accident.
Ram Vilas Paswan, who has staked claim to be the original benefactor of Hajipur, is expected to skip the meeting. Paswan’s supporters will soon launch an agitation here against Kumar for misleading the people.
Paswan said Kumar had recently sacked at least 167 Dalits who “I had recruited during my stint as railway minister”.
Paswan added that this is “just one example of how Kumar settled scores with him. “I am soon going to bring out a white paper on the projects which I had initiated. Kumar hijacked them and organised a second inauguration ceremony for them,” Paswan said.
The situation on the ground, too, does not reflect the lush green backdrop against which the new headquarters stands. The office rooms in the semi-circular building near the Hajipur railway station have been equipped with 100 computers. Around 67 junior railway officers are expected to start work from tomorrow. At least 450 subordinate staff members have also joined the zonal office, officials said.
At least 100 senior officers will join the zonal office soon. A new floor would come up on the same building.
Since Hajipur does not have a good hotel, the railway zone office has rented three to four houses to accommodate officials who been transferred from elsewhere. But most of the subordinate staff have been given shelter at Patna where the railway has hired more houses. Some employees resent this as they have to commute by bus for an hour to reach the zonal office from Patna.
Some of the offices do not have ceiling fans but table fans have been installed as a “stop-gap” measure. “The headquarters will gradually come to shape,” an official said.