Putting behind their indifference in the first quarter, nine companies, including big ones, have bid for two-laning the Raebareli-Jaunpur stretch of National Highway 231.

The surprising turnaround came just a week after the Union government cleared the project. The Raebareli Lok Sabha constituency is represented by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) opened the tenders on Thursday. As they were above the baseline prescribed in the annuity mode of construction, the matter has been referred to the NHAI Board.

Of the total cost of Rs. 647.98 crore, Rs. 78.62 crore has been earmarked for land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation of those displaced in the districts of Raebareli, CSM Nagar, Pratapgarh and Jaunpur.

The project to widen the 166.5-km stretch is expected to be completed in two years, just about the time of 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

This work was the first to be bid in the second quarter of the current financial year; the nine bids it evoked were considered a healthy sign, given that the NHAI did not even receive a single bid for most projects for building 1,500 km of roads in the previous quarter. It received bids for only 100 km — that too when it offered a tantalising subsidy of 40 per cent.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways C.P. Joshi met stakeholders and promised them that he would address their problems. He also urged financial institutions to fund the projects liberally in national interest; otherwise, he said, it would not be possible to meet the target for the current fiscal of laying 3,500 km of roads and awarding contracts for 9,500 km of highways.