Patna, Feb 16: With the Lok Sabha polls round the corner, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has once again linked the grant of special status to development in the hope of the ruling Janata Dal-United (JD-U) sweeping the state’s 40 seats in parliament’s lower house.
“Give us your support and votes to elect our candidates to all 40 Lok Sabha seats in the state for realising the demand of special category status,” Nitish Kumar has been repeatedly appealing during his party’s sankalp rallies all over the state for the last two weeks.
Time and again, he has declared that he would support the party at the centre that would grant special category status to Bihar. At the same time, he has ruled out joining the NDA that is led by once-friend BJP.
His rallies have evoked good response if the number of people that turned up to listen to him at district headquarters like Lakhisarai, Banka, Gopalganj and Begusarai is anything to go by.
“I will not sit quiet till I attain the special status demand for development of Bihar. Our demand will be heard only when we become strong in Delhi,” he has been saying, asking the people to take a pledge to build a new Bihar.
“I am committed to rebuilding Bihar, but it will be possible only after getting special category status for the state,” Nitish Kumar has been saying.
He has been blaming the Congress and state rival Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) for the grant of special category status to Bihar being put on the backburner.
We need support in the shape of more Lok Sabha seats to forcefully assert our collective rights in Delhi for special status for the development of Bihar,” Nitish Kumar maintains.
He is also not missing any chance to remind the people that things were moving in the right direction for granting Bihar special category status on the basis of the Raghuram Rajan Committee report. A meeting on this was even scheduled last November 28 but all of a sudden, the Congress-led UPA government at the centre applied the brakes under the influence of the RJD, Nitish Kumar asserts.
The Raghuram Rajan Committee last year identified Bihar as one of the “least developed”. The chief minister then described the committee’s report as a victory for Bihar, which JD-U leaders and workers celebrated on the streets.
The committee has suggested splitting states into three categories and subsumed the previous special category criteria for providing special assistance to poorer states.
Lack of action on the report prompted Nitish Kumar to term this as an insult to the people of Bihar, adding: “The demand for special status is the right of 10.5 crore (105 million) people of Bihar and the next polls will be an opportunity to give a befitting reply to political forces which scuttled the demand.”
The chief minister has also negatived the BJP’s contention that its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will help develop Bihar if voted to power, contending that “outsiders” could never do this. “Only the people of Bihar can develop the state. Outsiders cannot develop Bihar,” he contends.
Early this month, senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi said Narendra Modi would take care of backward states like Bihar and accord special status after becoming prime minister.
Late last year and earlier this year also, Nitish Kumar had hinted that the demand for special status will be a major issue in the Lok Sabha elections if the centre denied the demand.
He pointed out that Bihar’s per capita income, investments and electricity consumption are the lowest in the country and it also lags in all human resource indices.
Bihar would take at least 25 years to touch the national average of economic growth without special category status, Nitish Kumar asserts. To put pressure on the centre, the JD-U had held a rally in Patna last year and in New Delhi earlier this year. The JD-U also collected over 10 million signatures on the issue.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)