It’s indeed a “power play” between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his opponents in the ongoing Assembly elections.
As the state reels from severe power crisis, the blame game has begun: The Opposition parties are attacking Kumar on this ground to show his talks of development has not yielded an all-round flavour and the chief minister blaming the Centre for the power woes of the state.
“Where is electricity in Bihar?” Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, leading the campaign for party, is asking in all his rallies, “Our government in Delhi has Rajiv Gandhi Gramin Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGVY). We have given money to the Bihar government under this scheme. Still, 40 per cent villages don’t have any power connection. Where did the money go?”
In his campaign, Kumar is pitching power as his next major agenda for the next term. “This time, I will bring electricity in Bihar,” he assures voters in almost all parts of the state.
But the chief minister doesn’t stop here. He raises a finger at Dilliwalas (meaning the Congress-led central government) for denying power to Bihar. “We have so many projects for power generation. But the central government is not giving us coal. They are the owners of coal. They are not giving coal linkages required to set up new power plants.”
During the past five years, the National Democratic Alliance government brought out annual reports on how it was marching towards “Development with Justice”. In the last report, the power sector finds mention on the 37th page, after tourism, culture and even science and technology. The detailed list of achievements, on page 98, talks mainly about the approvals, financial allocations and expectations from the future.
In Motihari and Bettiah, power is hardly available for 7-8 hours every day. After sunset, eateries along the highways greet customers amid the roar of diesel generators. Villages like Tirathpur and Kusheshwar in Darbhanga region have seen electric poles getting erected four years ago. But the supply hasn’t yet reached. “Earlier, we used to get maximum six hours of electricity. Now, before the elections, we are getting 10-12 hours of power supply. Once the polling is over, I am sure the supply will reduce again,” says Vikas Mishra of Siwan.
With coal linkages a problem area, the state is banking its hopes on renewable energy. “We are expecting to add 2,065 Mw power from non-conventional sources alone,” says S Vijayaraghavan, advisor, investment, to the CM.
The state has proposals from non-resident Indians to set up ethanol plants. Power companies like Indiabulls Power and CESC want to set up power plants in the state. The state has identified seven hydel power projects. Total sanctioned thermal projects can bring 20,000 Mw of power. But not even 1,000 Mw has been added during the past five years.
“Earlier, Bihar used to generate 2,000 Mw of electricity. Now, it is generating just 400 Mw. The change is happening in the reverse direction. Instead of moving forward the Nitish Kumar’s Bihar is going backward,” Rahul Gandhi taunts Kumar’s government in his rallies.