In a confrontationist move, the Uttar Pradesh government inaugurated a bridge in Rae Bareli on Wednesday, and detained a Union minister who was going to inspect work on the project.
The bridge was supposed to be inaugurated by Congress President Sonia Gandhi after March 15.
Chief Minister Mayawati, however, tried to seize the initiative and had initially asked Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department Minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui to inaugurate the bridge on Thursday.
The 1.32-km bridge has been constructed with central road funds, and the cost has been Rs 31.67 crore. Gandhi took the initiative to get it sanctioned in 2004. Work on the bridge was completed last month.
The Union ministry for road transport and highways had informed the state government that Gandhi would inaugurate it in the second half of March.
Rae Bareli is Sonia Gandhi’s Lok Sabha constituency.
The state government got the information that Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways R.P.N. Singh had been sent to the site for inspection.
A team of Congress MLAs met Governor B.L. Joshi on Wednesday to demand that the inauguration be deferred.
All this led to the state’s apprehension that Singh would inaugurate the bridge.
As Singh landed at Rae Bareli airport around 2 p.m. and left for the site of the bridge on the Ganga, officers in Lucknow got into the act. Rae Bareli District Magistrate Charanjeet Singh and district police chief P.K. Mishra stopped the minister’s convoy 3 km from the town.
Officers detained the minister for nearly two-and-a-half hours, informing him that the administration had imposed Section 144 of the Criminal
Procedure Code in the district. Singh asked the officers to cite reasons for his detention in writing and the officers did so. Section 144 restricts movements of individuals.
A large crowd, including Congress MLAs and others soon gathered at the site and the Lucknow-Allahabad highway was blocked.
Singh later said he had told the Lok Sabha Speaker about his detention. The state government started work on the inauguration a day earlier than it had scheduled and Siddiqui declared in Lucknow that the bridge had been inaugurated.