Credit war looms over big rail units in Bihar

The inauguration of two big-ticket railway projects in Bihar looks set to trigger a credit-taking exercise amid first signs that the Congress may be getting into poll mode in the state for the next general elections.

Congress working committee member Gulchain Singh Charak announced either Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi would inaugurate the projects at Harnaut (Nalanda district) and Belapur (Chapra) early April.

The catch is the Rs. 328-crore railway coach maintenance factory at Harnaut and the Rs. 1,417.23-crore railway wagon wheel manufacturing unit at Belapur are seen as pet projects of Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad.

“Any Congress attempt to corner credit for them will not go down well with either,” said a leader from the CM’s Janata Dal (United). “Lalu Prasad supports the UPA at the Centre and the Congress is reportedly trying to woo the JD(U).”

JD(U) spokesman and MP Shivanand Tiwari said, “The people of Bihar are well aware all credit for the Harnaut unit goes to Nitish Kumar just as the credit for the Chapra factory lies with Lalu Prasad.”

Unmindful of such resentment, Bihar Congress spokesman HK Verma said the Congress-led government at the Centre deserved full credit for supporting the two projects and ensuring their completion. “This shows our commitment to the development of Bihar.”

Other Bihar Congress leaders said the timing of the proposed inauguration was significant because the party central leadership had told the state unit to be poll-ready in three months.

“We were told as much at a meeting in New Delhi on March 13, which was marked by the presence of Congress VP Rahul Gandhi,” said a leader who did not want to be named.

Bihar sends 40 MPs to the Lok Sabha. At present, the Congress has two Lok Sabha members from the state, the JD(U) 20, the BJP 12 and the RJD 3.