Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said Narendra Modi never met him to make a representation about the Sardar Sarovar dam on river Narmada when the latter was the chief minister of Gujarat. Singh’s rebuttal came weeks after Modi alleged that although he met the then prime minister several times on the issue of raising the height of the dam, there was no assurance from the erstwhile UPA government on finishing the project. “Modiji never held any meeting with me about the issue of the dam,” Singh said while replying to a question about the Narmada project at a press conference. Refuting Modi’s allegation that the project was stalled because the UPA government was “anti-Gujarat and anti- development”, Singh claimed that the previous Congress governments always supported the project.
“I also want to say that when the World Bank refused to give loan for the project in 1992, I was the Union finance minister. I undertook on behalf of the Government of India that whatever money the World Bank was supposed to give for the Narmada project, the Centre will provide that to it,” he said. During his Vadodara visit last month, Modi claimed that every time he went to meet Singh to make a representation about the dam, the then prime minister used to express ignorance about the stalled work on it.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani hit back at Singh, insisting numerous representations were made in the past. “Even I went to meet Singh numerous times for the Narmada project when I was a Member of Parliament between 2006 and 2012. But they (the UPA government) did not give permission to install gates for seven long years. Singh owes an explanation to the people of Gujarat,” Rupani said. Nearly 56 years after its foundation was laid, the Sardar Sarovar dam became a reality with Modi dedicating it to the nation on September 17 this year.
The foundation stone of the dam was laid on April 5, 1961 by the country’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. However, it took 56 years to finally complete the construction due to litigations and protests by the affected villagers. Modi, when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, sat on a 51-hour fast in 2006 as the UPA government refused to grant permission to raise the height of the dam citing incomplete rehabilitation work. In just 17 days after becoming the prime minister in 2014, the Modi government gave the permission to raise the height of the dam to over 138 metres and instal the gates. The work on raising the height of the dam to 138.68 metres was recently completed, which will allow maximum usable storage of 4.73 million acre feet of water.