The Opposition in Bihar criticised the Nitish Kumar-led government in the state after part of a bridge the chief minister had inaugurated less than a month ago reportedly collapsed on Wednesday, the Hindustan Times reported. The Sattarghat bridge in Gopalganj, which was built at an expenditure of Rs 263.47 crore, allegedly caved in because of heavy rains and flooding in the area. However, the state road construction department denied damage to the structure.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav mocked the state government, alleging that it did not care about wasting Rs 263 crore. “The Sattarghat bridge of Gopalganj built at a cost of Rs 263.47 crore in eight years, was inaugurated by Nitish Ji on June 16,” Yadav tweeted. “Today, 29 days later the bridge collapsed. Beware! If someone terms it corruption by Nitish ji. Rs 263 crore is for just a glimpse. Even their rats consume alcohol worth this amount.”

In May 2017, police officials in Patna claimed rats had drunk thousands of litres of liquor seized and stored in stations.

Bihar Congress President Madan Mohan Jha also hit out at the Janata Dal (United)-led government and said the accident should not be blamed on the “poor rodents”. “The inauguration of the bridge which was constructed at a cost of Rs 263.47 crore took place on 16 June and its destruction on 15 July,” Jha tweeted. “Now do not blame the poor rodents for this.”

In 2017, a minister in Kumar’s Cabinet had blamed rats for the floods in the state. Rajiv Ranjan Singh alias Lallan Singh had said the rodents made holes in the embankments, weakening structures and allowing river water to breach through them.

Road construction department, BJP deny damage to bridge

The state’s road construction department denied reports of any damage to the bridge. “About two kilometres from the main bridge, on the side of Gopalganj, an approach road of 18 metres has been eroded by heavy water pressure of Gandak river,” Road Construction Department Additional Chief Secretary Amrit Lal Meena told the Hindustan Times. “ [But] this bridge [the Sattarghat bridge] is situated inside the embankment area of Gandak. The main bridge is absolutely safe and traffic will be restored on the road once water pressure reduces.”

Meena added there is “no question of irregularities in the bridge’s construction”. “This is a natural disaster,” he said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which is an ally of the JD(U) in Bihar, defended the state government, accusing the Rashtriya Janata Dal of false propaganda. “The RJD, which itself has specialised in corruption is making false propaganda,” party spokesperson Nikhil Anand said. “Kumar’s target is to make corruption-free development. The bridge is completely safe only an approach road two kilometres ahead of [the] bridge has been washed away.”