Union transport minister Nitin Gadkari laid the foundation stone of seven road projects worth of around Rs 3,342 and went on to promise highway-development investment worth Rs 18,000 more, here on Thursday. On the political front, the senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader gave some much-needed fuel to the alliance with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), giving much of the credit to SAD patriarch, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for it.
“The Punjab CM came to me with the problem of poor roads. Officials in my ministry objected to some of these projects. But I told them clearly that he is our oldest ally, so approve whatever he demands,” said Gadkari at a stadium packed with Akali workers in the Badal bastion.
Badal was not at the function as he was in Chandigarh to bid farewell to outgoing governor Shivraj Patil. Moderate rain through the day had little effect on the rally.
The announcements also provided some succour to the SAD as the party has repeatedly been asked what it had got ever since the BJP-led government at the Centre, in which Badal’s daughter-in-law and Bathinda MP Harsimrat Kaur is a minister, had come to power. The seven projects started on Thursday are mostly four-laning of major roads that also include those connecting with Haryana and Rajasthan.
With Gadkari’s further announcement of 800km road projects worth Rs 18,000 crore, SAD president and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal said Punjab would become the first state in India to have connectivity to all major cities with four- or six-laned roads in the next two years.
“Soon, Punjab will have roads like those in Canada and US. Roads will be made of cement, and even bomb explosions won’t be able to damage them,” claimed Sukhbir in his speech, adding, “The previous Congress-led government [at the Centre] did not approve even a single bridge for Punjab. It is only CM Badal who can bring projects. Gadkari will again come to Punjab on Baisakhi to announce more road projects.”
Rain dig at Captain
Sukhbir also took a jibe at the postponement of Congress MP Capt Amarinder Singh’s Amritsar rally from January 22 to 24: “On the one hand, in heavy rain, people have gathered in lakhs; on the other, the Congress has postponed his rally by making rain as an excuse.” Rain had ebbed just before the rally and chairs were installed on the wet grass.
Plane in lake!
Gadkari went ahead and expressed his goal to land his plane on the lake surface here on his next visit. He announced to launch water transportation on a par with European countries and declared to include Sutlej and Beas rivers in the proposed water highways project along with 99 other rivers of the country. Ever since Narendra Modi took over as Prime Minister, Gadakri is the first BJP brass minister hosted by the Badals at their house in Badal village for lunch, before the stone-laying ceremony.
Changing shades and posters
Union minister of state Vijay Sampla was present too. He is in-charge of the BJP for civic body polls in Bathinda slated for next month, and had recently organised the first independent rally of the BJP in CM’s segment Lambi. State BJP president Kamal Sharma was there too, though their photographs were missing from the posters. Sampla urged the media to concentrate on the development agenda of the Union government rather than asking just about the future of the SAD-BJP alliance. Harsimrat wasn’t at the function or the posters either.