Bihar ministers Sanjay Kumar Jha and Ashok Choudhary have effusively praised “engineer” Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for reconstructing the state in the last 15 years, developing it from the abysmal condition he had inherited it from the Rashtriya Janata Dal regime in 2005.
The ruling JD(U), of which Mr Jha is the national general secretary, is building its campaign for the coming assembly elections in Bihar around 15 years of Mr Kumar’s rule versus a decade-and-half of the Lalu Yadav-Rabri Devi regime.
Mr Jha and Mr Choudhary had on Tuesday used the occasion of Engineers’ Day to shower praises on Nitish Kumar, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering.
Mr Kumar has “reconstructed” Bihar in the last 15 years, the two ministers asserted while claiming that it was in shambles before he assumed power in 2005.
The average growth rate which was around 3.19 per cent during the RJD rule has now risen to 11.3 per cent, Mr Jha who is a close confidante of Nitish Kumar, said.
While a meagre 22 per cent of the state’s population had access to electricity during the RJD regime, all households have power connection now, he said.
RJD had ruled Bihar from 1990 to 2005 first under RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav and then under his wife Rabri Devi.
In November 2005, the NDA had dislodged RJD from power and Mr Kumar has helmed the state since then, except for the brief period when he had anointed Jitan Ram Manjhi after JD(U) had received a severe drubbing in the 2014 general election.
Giving more statistics to paint the picture of development in the 15 years under “Nitish raj”, Mr Jha, who is the minister for water resources development, told PTI: “There is no need to look for development in Bihar with the help of a lantern (RJD poll symbol) today…. Progress is clearly visible under LED lights in every village.”
Mr Choudhary, the minister for building construction said, “The state is proud to have an engineer chief minister who has reconstructed the state in the last 15 years.”
Mr Kumar graduated in electrical engineering from Bihar College of Engineering in 1973. The college later became National Institute of Technology, Patna.
After completing his formal studies, Mr Kumar was recruited as an assistant engineer in the Bihar State Electricity Board at Ranchi. However, his passion for politics took him away from it, books on him say.
Mr Jha claimed that in the past 15 years under Nitish Kumar the size of Bihar’s budget has increased eight times compared to that during the RJD regime.
The budget size in 2005-06 was Rs 23,885 crore which has gone up to Rs 2,11,761 crore in the financial year 2020-21, he said.
“During the RJD period the industrial growth rate was zero in Bihar which is 17 per cent now,” Mr Jha said.
In the water resources development, no new assistant engineer (mechanical) was appointed since 1979. Now after 41 years the government has initiated the process for recruitment of 615 of them, he said.
Despite problems due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown, a total of 388 schemes to plug leakage or repair of embankments were completed before the floods this monsoon, the minister said adding that for the first time iron sheets piling and bag pitching were used for strengthening embankments.
Stating that no new engineering college had opened in Bihar between 1960 and 2005, Mr Jha said now due to Mr Kumar’s efforts there is one in every district, besides a polytechnic college and a women industrial training institute. There are ITI in every sub-division of the state as well.
Drawing more comparisons between the RJD regime and that of Nitish Kumar, he said Bihar had only 34 per cent metallic roads during the Lalu-Rabri rule which is 97 per cent now.
Referring to the development of infrastructure in Bihar, Mr Jha claimed that only four bridges were built over the Ganga in the state between 1962 and 2005. But since Mr Kumar came to power in 2005 a total of 11 new bridges over the river have been approved in different places, out of which two have been completed.
On the Kosi River, there were only three bridges during the RJD regime. In 2005, six bridges on it were sanctioned and three of them are already functional.
Speaking of the power scenario in Bihar, Mr Jha said, “Earlier people in the state used to wait for the supply of power in their homes, particularly in the rural areas and were forced to use lantern. But now villages have electricity supply for 22 to 24 hours a day.”
“Earlier the word ”Bihari” triggered fun and indignation. In the last 15 years, Bihar has earned a respectful identity,” the JD(U) leader added.