| LK Advani awards certificates to toppers of Jharkhand Secondary Education Board in Ranchi during statehood celebrations on Friday. Picture by Prashant Mitra
Ranchi, Nov. 15: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today gave Babulal Marandi a “clean chit”, patting him for being “serious” about Jharkhand’s development and debunking charges that nothing had been achieved in the last two years.
Voicing satisfaction over the pace of development in the state, he said: “Jharkhand has all the mineral resources and a lot can be done. With a little effort, Jharkhand can join the leading states of the country. I am happy that the government is serious about development.”
Speaking at a function to mark the state’s second foundation day at Morahbadi Maidan, Advani surprised the Opposition by echoing their demand for a “Greater Jharkhand”, comprising the tribal-dominated districts of Bengal and Orissa.
“When I was a Jan Sangh worker, I used to frequent this area. The people always wanted a separate state comprising all the tribal-dominated districts of adjacent Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal.
“When the people of Santhal Parganas and Chotanagpur used to air their sentiments to me, I used to feel that the creation of a separate state would not be possible. I used to often tell this to my colleagues…, ” he said.
Advani took full credit for the formation of Jharkhand, saying the BJP had seriously considered the issue after coming to power. “But we were apprehensive since ours was a coalition government. We never knew how the other partners would respond. We also did not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha. I am happy our partners supported Jharkhand’s cause,” he said, leaving Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar beaming.
Railway minister Kumar used the occasion to woo his votebank, announcing a new train between Ranchi and Bangalore and extending the Rourkela-Puri Tapaswini Express to Ranchi and the Ranchi-Garhwa passenger to Varanasi.
Yadav appealed to the chief minister to ensure that Jharkhand is able to stand with frontline states in the near future. “The Jharkhand government should utilise the opportunity of a direct railway link between Bangalore, the country’s IT capital, and Ranchi. The government’s focus should be on science and technology,” he said.
Marandi read out his government’s achievements but asserted that much remained to be done. He promised to convert Jharkhand into the country’s IT destination by 2010. He said things had been in the doldrums when he took over, but they were looking up as his government had constructed over 600 bridges and work on 1,250 was underway. He said the Subarnarekha project would be completed by 2003.