Rajasthan's BJP Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia on Monday differed on which Union government was behind the expressway project in the state, a first public-private partnership in the roads sector.
Ahluwalia, who was speaking at the function to dedicate the 90-km long six-lane expressway in Bagru (Rajasthan), said the project was conceptualised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh 10 years ago when he was the finance minister.
However, Raje, who spoke after Ahluwalia, contradicted him, saying the project was a dream of former premier Atal Bihari Vajpayee and was launched during his tenure. She said the expressway was linked by Vajpayee to the Golden Quadrilateral project.
The chief minister thanked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for carrying forward the project. She said it was a good example of public-private partnership, which had borne positive results.
Ahluwalia said Singh, during his tenure as finance minister, had thought of involving private parties in specific cases as adequate funds were not available with the government and he did not consider it appropriate to levy taxes to raise the required amount.
He said the UPA government had many schemes for the poor and that its thrust was on creating job opportunities through economic reforms which will help eradicate poverty.
The prime minister has set up an infrastructure committee to construct national highways over a period of seven years at the cost of Rs 172,000 crore (Rs 1,720 billion), Ahluwalia said.
Surface Transport Minister T R Baalu and his deputy K H Muniappa also spoke on the occasion.
"A high powered infrastructure committee headed by the prime minister has already been set up to take up and execute the works," Ahluwalia said.
The private sector would contribute more than the public sector in these highway projects as it was done in the Jaipur-Kishangarh Expressway, he said, adding it would guide the future works too.
Congratulating the people of Rajasthan, he said it would be the first road project to come up with public-private participation after introduction of economic reforms.
"Private participation was a must as no government wanted to tax the people, nor could provide funds for this kind of mega projects which required Rs 614 crore (Rs 6.14 billion)," he said.
This would be symbol of public-private participation for other states, he said.Ahluwalia stressed that the UPA government's top priority would be to eradicate poverty and provide maximum jobs to the unemployed so that the pace of economic development could be speeded up.