Two new bridges to cut distances in Bihar, bring bickering allies RJD, JD (U) closer | patna | Hindustan Times
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Two new bridges to cut distances in Bihar, bring bickering allies RJD, JD (U) closer

The Ara-Chapra and Digha-Sonepur road bridges on the Ganga will bring north and south Bihar closer, just as CM Nitish Kumar’s decision to open them on Lalu Prasad’s birthday, may bring in a thaw in RJD-JD (U) ties.

patna Updated: Jun 10, 2017 17:41 IST
Avinash Kumar/Prashant Ranjan
The newly-constructed Ara-Chapra bridge, which will be inaugurated by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, on Sunday.
The newly-constructed Ara-Chapra bridge, which will be inaugurated by Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, on Sunday. (HT photo)

When Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar presses a button at his office in Patna on Sunday to inaugurate two newly built road bridges across the Ganga river, his move will more than just cut the distance between towns and villages of south and north Bihar.

In doing the honours for inauguration of the Ara-Chapra and Digha-Sonepur road bridges, the chief minister will also signal a thaw in the relations between Bihar’s ruling ‘grand alliance’ partners, the JD (U) and the RJD, which have not been on best of terms in recent months.

For, Kumar has consented to the inaugural function coinciding with the 70th birthday of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who will be by his side during the inaugural function, which is being organised even though work on the two bridges is not complete as yet.

The Rs 800 crore, four- lane and 4.35 km long Ara-Chapra bridge, near Koilwar in south-central Bihar, will directly link the Bhojpuri speaking areas of Bhojpur with Saran in north Bihar, cutting the distance between them to around 20 km from 200 km, via Gandhi setu in Patna, at present.

The bridge, foundation stone of which was laid by Kumar in July 2010, will provide traffic coming from New Delhi and UP through national highway-2, direct access to north Bihar up to the Nepal border, without touching Patna, about 70 km to the east.

The Rs 3,800-crore, 5.25 km road-cum -rail bridge at Digha in Patna, connecting Digha to Sonepur in north Bihar and cleared in 2006 during Prasad’s stint as railway minister, will take pressure off the dilapidated Mahatma Gandhi Setu in Patna, which is set to undergo major repairs.

On Sunday, only the road portion of the Digha-Sonepur bridge will see its formal inauguration. The railways portion of the bridge was opened to traffic by minister of state for railways, Manoj Sinha, on February 3, 2016.

The two bridges will, however, be only partially opened on Sunday, said road construction minister Tejashwi Yadav, 26, Lalu Prasad’s younger son, who has supervised the constructions and pledged to open them on his father’s birthday, as some work on them still remains to be done.

Tejashwi is expected to be at the Chapra end of the Ara-Chapra bridge, while his father, Prasad, will be at the CM’s side at the inaugural function, in Patna on Sunday.

.The chief minister’s gesture of opening the twin bridges on Prasad’s birthday comes at a time when the relations between the two allies in the ruling Grand Alliance appeared to have touched a nadir.

Kumar has been very upset with Prasad’s inability to curtail outbursts against him (Kumar) by senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Prasad Singh, just as Prasad has been unhappy with Kumar for not defending him and his family on BJP leader Sushil Modi’s allegations suggesting they held dubiously sourced properties.

The relations soured to such an extent that when the income tax authorities raided 22 properties allegedly associated with Prasad, last month, the RJD chief made a cryptic remark suggesting the BJP led NDA had found ‘another ally’, which was read by many as a reference to Kumar.

Again, while Prasad attended Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s luncheon in Delhi on May 27, Kumar skipped it, only to join the Prime Minister’s luncheon on May 28, in honour of the visiting Mauritius Prime Minister, suggesting they were treading separate political paths.