Stick for Lalu, pat for self on roads

Prime Minister Narendra Modi indirectly slammed RJD chief Lalu Prasad in Mokama on the dev-elopment front and claimed Bihar had not seen as much road construction since Independence as it had since 2014.

By Amit Bhelari
  • Published 15.10.17

Mokama, Oct. 14: Prime Minister Narendra Modi indirectly slammed RJD chief Lalu Prasad in Mokama on the dev-elopment front and claimed Bihar had not seen as much road construction since Independence as it had since 2014.

"Some people used to say roads are meant for those who have cars, and not the poor. No one has damaged the country as much as these people with distorted mentality," said Modi. He was laying the foundation stone of infrastructure projects worth Rs 3,769 crore, including construction of four National Highway projects and sewage treatment projects for Patna under the Namami Gange project, at Mokama, 90km east of Patna.

A villager had complained to Lalu, when he was chief minister, that the road passing through his village was potho-led for years. Lalu told him smooth roads would only help those who have cars but would be a threat to village children, who might get run over.

Modi claimed that road projects worth Rs 53,000 crore, out of Rs 55,000 crore sanctioned for the road sector in a special package for Bihar, had either been completed or were under way. "Bihar, probably, has not seen as much road construction in the past three years as it has since Independence," Modi said.

Road construction was Nitish Kumar's USP as chief minister in the various governments he has led since 2005, mostly in alliance with the BJP. And yet, Nitish did not react to Modi's boast. In his speech, Nitish heaped praise on the Centre for laying foundation stones of development schemes, but made two demands. He asked for a new road connecting Buxar and Varanasi and another bridge parallel to Vikramshila Setu in Bhagalpur. "I've nothing to say as you have mentioned a lot about various projects for Bihar," Nitish said. "But it is my request to you to construct a road between Buxar and Varanasi."

Union minister Nitin Gadkari, who spoke before Nitish, said the Centre was constructing a greenfield expressway from Lucknow to Gorakhpur and Ballia and suggested that the expressway be connected to Patna. He said it would reduce travel time between Delhi and Patna. He also said that four sewage projects would treat 140 million litres per day and stop dirty water from being discharged into the Ganga. Gadkari categorically said that of 97 cities across the country, Patna polluted the Ganga the most.

The Prime Minister began his speech in the local dialect, sending the crowds into frenzy, as they raised cries of "Modi, Modi". In his half-an-hour-long speech, from 3.30 to 4pm, Modi also praised Nitish, saying he was always ready to extend his support.

The road and bridge projects launched by the PM included four-lanning of Aunta-Simariya section of NH-31 and construction of a six-lane bridge parallel to Rajendra Setu over the Ganga at a cost of Rs 1,161 crore.

Other road projects included four-laning of Bakhtiyapur-Mokama section of NH-31 at an estimated outlay of Rs 837 crore, construction of a two-lane Maheshkhunt-Saharsa-Purnea section of NH 107 at a cost of Rs 736 crore and two-lane construction of Bihar Sharif Barbigha-Mokama section of NH-82 at Rs 297 crore.

All these projects are part of Prime Minister Modi's special package of Rs1.60 lakh crore for Bihar, which he had announced before the 2015 Assembly election.

Modi reached the Taal area at 2pm, along with Governor Satyapal Malik, chief minister Nitish Kumar and deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi on an army chopper.

Speaking on rural electrification work being done in the country, Modi said: "We had targeted to provide power connection to 18,000 villages in 1,000 days. Of these, 15,000 villages have been electrified and the remaining 3,000 villages would be electrified in the stipulated timeframe."

The Prime Minister also said that sanitation coverage in the country had increased from 50 to 80 per cent and 2.5 lakh villages had been made Open-Defecation-Free (ODF).

Nitish, who praised Gadkari for his positive approach towards work, assured him there will not be any problem in land acquisition for any projects in Bihar. "Nitin Gadkari does not know 'no' as there is no 'NO' in his dictionary. We will help and cooperate in carrying out land acquisition for any developmental projects," Nitish said.

Many senior leaders were on the dais but only Ram Vilas Paswan, Gadkari and Sushil Kumar Modi got to speak. Ram Kripal Yadav, R.K. Singh, Giriraj Singh, former chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi, Madhepura MP Pappu Yadav and state ministers did not get a chance.

There were no posters showing both Prime Minister Modi and Nitish in the entire stretch from Patna to Mokama.

In the evening, Lalu took a dig at Modi and Nitish by tweeting: "Govt at Center & Bihar serving as double engine of Regress specialising in crime, corruption, communalism, fascism & opportunism".