Bettiah (Bihar): With the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government reduced to a minority after the Trinamool Congress pulled out of the alliance, Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leaders Nitish Kumar has decided to play his cards.
Nitish Kumar on Wednesday once again raised the demand for giving special status to Bihar in Bettiah from where he started his 17-day 'adhikar (right) yatra'. "In future my party will join with those who will give special status to Bihar. We will align with a party that gives special status to Bihar," said Kumar.
The Janata Dal (United) has 20 MPs in the Lok Sabha and there have been speculations that Kumar, who runs the government in Bihar in alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party, could go alone if Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was projected as a prime ministerial candidate during the next Lok Sabha elections.
He has already said that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's prime ministerial candidate should be secular, a hint that he does not want Modi who is accused of not doing enough to stop the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The ongoing political crisis at the Centre has given one more chance to Kumar to position himself as one of the key players in national politics.
The Centre has already rejected Kumar's demand for special category status to Bihar following which the Chief Minister had urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to set up an expert committee to consider the demand.
"The expert committee should take a fair and rational decision on demand for special category status to Bihar and respond positively to the aspirations of a poor, backward state, which notwithstanding recent process, remains at the bottom of development pyramid both in terms of poverty indicators and various indices of human development," Kumar said in a letter addressed to the Prime Minister on June 16.
He also urged Singh to direct the special cell in the Planning Commission set up in the context of Bihar Reorganization Act to draft short and medium-term measures to mitigate the consequences of the bifurcation of the state.
"The 103.8 million people of Bihar expect justice and equity to meet their legitimate aspirations and are hopeful that the central government will initiate steps to fulfil their needs," Kumar said and hoped that the Centre will set up the expert committee to consider important suggestions mentioned in the memorandum for special category status.
Kumar trashed the inter-ministerial group (IMG) report that rejected the demand for special category status to Bihar despite recognizing 'huge development deficit of Bihar' and mentioning that it is 'among the lowest in the country on human development index.'
The IMG, he said, had recognized that the special plan under the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) should be continued and strengthened in the 12th Plan period to enable Bihar complete the on-going projects and take up new projects to address infrastructure gaps. "But despite clear articulation of the special requirement of the state it concluded that 'Bihar's case for special category status is not made out."
"I am disappointed with the report as the IMG did not consider the issues spelt out in our memorandum submitted to you in July, 2011, with any seriousness and seems to have worked in a mechanical and perfunctory fashion with bias and predilection to reach pre-ordained conclusions," he said.
The IMG have juxtaposed and 'cherry-picked' data and statistics to suit its negative conclusion on the demand for special category status to Bihar, he said and alleged that the state government officials were never given opportunity for meaningful deliberation with it before finalization of the report on March 30, 2012.
The Chief Minister also trashed the five-point characteristics identified by the IMG for according special category status with one of them being hilly and difficult terrain, while Bihar is located on the Indo-Gangetic plain to reject. But it had 'conveniently' dismissed the annual cycle of floods that makes it India's most flood-prone state.
A large portion of the total flood-affected area in the country lies in Bihar affecting a disproportionately high percentage of the total flood-affected population in the country live in the state, he said.
(With additional information from PTI)