Modi Lays Foundation Stone of North Koel Reservoir in Jharkhand as BJP Tries to Regain Lost Ground
One big challenge for the BJP, which won 12 out of 14 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in Jharkhand, is to maintain the high strike rate in the face of a united Opposition being led by Congress and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Image Reuters)
With an eye on five Lok Sabha seats in Bihar and Jharkhand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday laid the foundation stone of the much-awaited North Koel Reservoir in Latehar district in the heart of Naxal-infested Jharkhand.
Once operational, the reservoir is expected to irrigate over 1.2 lakh hectares of land in Chatra and Palamau Lok Sabha constituencies in Jharkhand, and Aurangabad, Gaya and Jehanabad constituencies in Bihar.
Except for Jehanabad, the remaining four Lok Sabha constituencies are currently represented by the BJP. Before winning the 2014 elections, the MPs of these five constituencies had promised the effective functioning of the Mandal Dam. “During the 2014 election meetings, Narendra Modi had repeatedly promised that this irrigation project — which was abandoned by the Congress and its allies — would be made functional soon. I raised this issue in the Lok Sabha on my very first day on July 7, 2014. Our sustained efforts are now set to yield results,” said Sunil Kumar Singh, MP from Chatra district.
But the BJP, which won 12 out of 14 seats in the state in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, is facing a big challenge this time: to maintain the high strike rate in Jharkhand where a united Opposition is being led by Congress and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.
The saffron party has lost a majority of bypolls in the state assembly despite being in power and the Raghubar Das-led government’s performance in the last two years is also a matter of big worry for the party.
To counter this perception, the state government is showcasing the North Koel irrigation project as a sign of improved law and order situation in the Naxal-affected areas.
Mandal dam’s chief engineer Mukesh Kumar says the project was approved in 1972, but the work came to a grinding halt in early 1990s after an engineer was shot dead by Naxals and the construction site was ransacked.
But when a serious initiative to revive this project finally began under Modi’s rule, the ministry of forest, environment and climate change expressed strong reservations, arguing that the dam’s construction would lead to submergence of Palamau Tiger Reserve.
The necessary clearances were obtained only after it was proposed that the water reservoir level be brought down from 367.28 meters to 341 meters.
The total project cost was revised to Rs 2,391 crore. Some 780 families who settled in the acquired area over the years were given Rs 15 lakh each. The Centre agreed to take care of the 60 per cent of the total expenses.
Meanwhile, the state government, worried that the agitating para-teachers would use Modi’s rally to register a protest regarding regularisation of their services, has barred people from wearing or carrying anything black for the rally.
Author is a senior journalist. Views expressed are personal.
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