Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi on Friday took their political rivalry to the inauguration of a PSU petrochemical plant, seeking credit for a venture which took 31 years to fructify.
Election to the 126-member Assam assembly is due within three months.
Inaugurating the Rs 9,965-crore gas cracker project of Brahmaputra Cracker & Polymers Limited at Lepetkota in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district, Modi said he was fortunate to unveil a plant that his predecessor could not.
“It appears our government is destined to give shape to all unfinished projects. Had this gas cracker project been completed 25 years ago, the second generation of people in Assam could have found employment. We have had this tendency to delay so much that a project that should have cost Rs500-crore instead of Rs 10-11,000-crore,” he said.
The NDA government, he said, fast-tracked the gas cracker project as part of its Act East policy to ensure Assam and the northeast keep pace with development elsewhere in India.
“I don’t mind (getting credit for UPA projects) as long as the country benefits,” Modi said.
The prime minister’s sarcasm was apparently directed at Gogoi, who in his address said chemicals and fertilisers minister Ananth Kumar should ideally have given credit to former PM Manmohan Singh and the state government for facilitating the project.
Kumar had earlier insisted that Modi’s vision had made the gas cracker project, in the making for years, possible.
“Projects of such magnitude are not built in a day, and subsidies of 53% ensured by Dr Singh helped the gas cracker plant come up. Ananth Kumar perhaps does not like us,” Gogoi said.
The gas cracker project is part of the 1985 Assam Accord that locals are sentimental about.
Modi, who had taken a chopper to Lepetkota after landing at Mohanbarie Airport in Dibrugarh, left for Moran, 30km from the project site, to address a rally of BJP workers from 36 assembly constituencies of eastern Assam.
The BJP is desperate to win the forthcoming election, having declared its Mission 84, targeted at winning as many seats. It has tied up with the tribal Bodoland People’s Front that is yet to be defeated in 12 seats across the Bodoland Territorial Council straddling western and north-central Assam.
The BJP had won five seats in the 2011 assembly polls, which was half the seats in its kitty in 2006.
The Congress, on the other hand, won 78 seats in the last election. But dissension has troubled it since 2013 and 10 MLAs, including former health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, quit to join the BJP last year.