Thiruvananthapuram: Amid a political row over the issue, the BJP leadership has confirmed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would inaugurate the Kollam bypass on January 15. BJP state chief P S Sreedharan Pillai told Manorama Online that this information has been conveyed to the party by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
Meanwhile, the PMO told local MP N K Premachandran also about Modi’s visit to open the bypass.
The prime minister is scheduled to reach Kollam by helicopter at 5.20 pm. The inaugural function is slated for 5.30 pm.
Earlier, Kollam Mayor V Rajendrababu and MLAs of the region M Noushad, Mukesh and N Vijayan Pillai had said that the Kerala Government had not received any notification regarding the prime minister’s visit for the inauguration. According to the Left MLAs, it was improper on the part of the prime minister to inaugurate the bypass without an invitation from the state government.
The Kollam bypass is a dream project that is turning a reality after around four-and-a-half decades. As soon as the work was completed, a political dispute arose between the three fronts over claiming credit.
According to the UDF, the state government was deliberately delaying the inauguration with an eye on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP alleged that the state government was claiming full credit for a project realized by an equal contribution from the central government.
Meanwhile, State Public Works Minister G Sudhakaran announced that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan would open the new bypass on February 2.
It was at this juncture that the BJP launched efforts to make the prime minister inaugurate the bypass when he reaches Kollam for a party event on January 15.
The work on the bypass which had been in limbo for decades was resumed by the previous UDF government during its last phase with the cooperation of the Centre. The LDF government that followed also sanctioned the necessary funds for the purpose.
According to BJP state general secretary K Surendran, after throwing open the bypass, Modi would address party workers from Kollam, Alappuzha and Mavelikkara constituencies.
At the same time, the chief minister’s private secretary M V Jayarajan and the Chief Secretary’s office confirmed that the Prime Minister would reach Kerala on January 15. However, details of Modi’s itinerary were not conveyed to the state, they added. The Chief Secretary’s office was alerted about the visit only two days ago.
Officials with the state general administration department also said that they have been informed about the prime minister’s visit. But they too were in the dark about Modi’s schedule.
The DGP’s office, meanwhile, said that it had no idea about these developments. The police are not alerted about the visit of dignitaries arranged at short notice, it explained.
With the BJP announcing the prime minister’s programme, the row has been reignited.
The CPM believes that a clear plan has been put into action by the BJP by bringing Modi to open the new road. The Left leaders are now thrashing out a counter plan to score a political victory over the BJP.
According to the LDF MLAs, the biggest contribution towards the works was made by LDF governments. The sanction from the Central Surface Transport Ministry was received on May 3, 1978, but work started only when P Rajendran became the MP from Kollam.
The crucial third phase was taken up on a war-footing after the present Pinarayi Vijayan government took charge, pointed out the MLAs. Key interventions were made by minister in-charge for the district J Mercykutty Amma and PWD minister G Sudhakaran. It was after Sudhakaran gave instructions to complete the pending works, including installation of high-mast lamps, that the inaugural function was announced on February 2, they added.
BJP secretary K Surendran said that in case the prime minister has decided to open the bypass, he would be in Kollam for the function. “But confirmation can be given only by the PMO,” he added.
“The protocol officer, the chief secretary and the state government are aware of Modi’s visit. Maybe the local MLAs are clueless over the matter,” said Surendran. Official functions inaugurated by the Prime Minister would be presided over by the Chief Minister, he pointed out.
Surendran also said that the Kollam MP Premachandran could claim no credit for the bypass. “He was earlier with the LDF and now with the UDF,” said Surendran.
Shibu Baby John’s take
RSP leader and former minister Shibu Baby John has criticized a press release issued by CPM Kollam district secretary S Sudevan over the issue. “The frustration of the CPM after its move to conduct the inauguration on February 2 is evident from the statement,” he said.
The CPM wanted to delay the opening of the road up to the Parliament polls, he added.
According to Shibu, the bypass became a reality as a result of the enthusiastic and wise efforts of Premachandran. Though the CPM tried to claim credit, the move failed.
He also ridiculed the LDF for terming Premachandran a Sangh fellow traveller. “In that case, the Chief Minister, who had delayed the opening of Kochi Metro for the convenience of Modi, also would be a Sangh activist,” said Shibu.
Work on the 13-km bypass between Kavanad and Mevaram was started in 2015. The road is expected to ease the traffic congestion in Kollam city. The estimated cost of Rs 277 crore is shared equally by the Centre and State.
Modi had earlier visited Kerala during the floods. After reaching the naval airport in Kochi, he had held discussions with the chief minister and other officials.
The prime minister was also scheduled to reach Pathanamthitta on January 6 for a BJP event, but the programme was postponed.
The BJP leaders also claim that Modi would attend the valedictory function of the Yuva Morcha state meeting at Thrissur on January 27.