A bridge across the Ganga in Rae Bareli, which turned out to be a bone of contention between the Congress and the Mayawati government, was inaugurated in a jiffy by a Uttar Pradesh Minister here on Wednesday. The inauguration was scheduled for Thursday at Dalmau Ghat in Rae Bareli, which Congress president Sonia Gandhi represents in the Lok Sabha, but was brought forward by a day in a bid to prevent the Congress from launching a protest. Sources in the Congress said the bridge was to be inaugurated by Ms. Sonia Gandhi in the second fortnight of March.

PWD Minister Naseemuddin Siddiqui said he would open the bridge for the second time, as scheduled on Thursday.

Even as the bridge was unveiled at a hastily arranged function, with the makeshift foundation stone made of vinyl, several Congressmen were detained at Munshiganj on the Rae Bareli-Dalmau Road. Among those detained were Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways R.P.N. Singh, who was going to Dalmau for inspecting the bridge; Ms. Sonia Gandhi's representative in Rae Bareli, K.L. Sharma; Congress MLAs and MLCs from Rae Bareli; and hundreds of Congressmen from the Rae Bareli and Amethi Lok Sabha constituencies. They were released later.

Mr. Siddiqui was in Aligarh on Wednesday for an official programme, but was summoned back to Lucknow, at the behest of Chief Minister Mayawati, after a Congress delegation submitted a memorandum to Governor B.L. Joshi earlier in the day. Pointing to the reports that the bridge was to be inaugurated by the PWD Minister on Thursday, the delegation urged the Governor to intervene and cancel the programme. It was to be inaugurated by Ms. Sonia Gandhi in the second fortnight of March, it said.

The memorandum was signed by five Congress MLAs from Rae Bareli — Ajay Pal Singh of Unchahar; Ashok Kumar Singh of Sareni; Rajaram Tyagi of Bachhrawan; Shiv Balak Pasi of Salon; and Shiv Ganesh Lodhi of Harchandpur, besides MLC Dinesh Pratap Singh.

Mr. Siddiqui told reporters that the decision to open the bridge was taken earlier. It was to be opened by Ms. Mayawati on her birthday on January 15, 2010, but could not be done, as the approach road was incomplete, he said.

As for the arrest of Mr. R.P.N. Singh, Mr. Siddiqui said he was going to Dalmau for the inaugural programme.

Incidentally, a letter, dated February 17, 2010, was sent to T. Ram, Engineer-in-Chief of the Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department, by R.B. Singh, Chief Engineer, Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, on the inauguration of the bridge. It stated the bridge shall be inaugurated by Ms. Sonia Gandhi tentatively in the second half of March 2010, “subject to confirmation by her office.”

The 1,032-metre-long bridge, with 34 spans, has been built, at a cost of Rs. 31 crore, under the Central Road Fund. The work on the bridge, located on the Rae Bareli-Fatehpur State Highway, started in July 2004. It was planned in 1976, when the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, was an MP from Rae Bareli.