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Nitish to go beyond boundary
- CM to speak for all economically backward states at NDC meet

Nitish Kumar

Patna, Dec. 26: Chief minister Nitish Kumar would go beyond the boundary of Bihar at the National Development Council (NDC) in New Delhi tomorrow. He would fight for the cause of other backward states as well.

Nitish, sources said, is gearing up to utilise the platform not only to put forward the case of his state but also to assume a larger role by speaking in favour of other economically backward states at the NDC meet.

“According special status to Bihar will be one of the keys issues that the chief minister would raise during his speech at the NDC meeting. He would also plead for changing the existing criteria, on the basis of which special status is accorded to the states and because of which Bihar and many other economically backward states have been denied the status,” a senior state government officer, who is closely associated with the process of selecting issues for the NDC meet, told The Telegraph.

The officer said that the chief minister would favour fresh policy initiatives from the Centre to bring Bihar and other economically backwards states on a par with the national average of various development indicators.

Nitish had expressed somewhat similar views in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month.

Another issue that is likely to figure in Nitish’s speech at the NDC meeting pertains to setting up an “eastern economic corridor” that would provide connectivity between Paradip port in Odisha and Sitamarhi district along India-Nepal border in Bihar via Jharkhand. “The chief minister plans to raise the point because such a corridor would propel economic growth in areas along the corridor because it would be directly connected to a port on one end and international border on the other,” the officer added.

Though these demands might appear economic in nature on the face value, somewhere down the line the nature of the demands is such that they would benefit other states as well and give Nitish a chance to project himself as a leader, who thinks beyond the boundaries of his state.

Some NDA leaders said Nitish had decided to fight for the cause of other states to build his image. It would help him portray himself as a leader not confined to the interest of his state only. It would also increase his chances of clipping Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s growing clout in the NDA, a political observer said.

The JD(U), however, sees no dichotomy in what Nitish’s stand has been on the issue of being a PM candidate and speaking on behalf of other states. “Linking such a stand with his aspiration for the PM’s post is not fair. Rather, bringing together other states, which are facing problems similar to Bihar, would strengthen the case of Bihar and those states,” JD(U) Bihar unit president Basishtha Narayan Singh said. He, however, maintained that Nitish “has the competence and the ability for the top post” (read PM’s post).

A senior BJP senior leader, who refused to be named citing coalition constraints, said: “Becoming the Prime Minister of the country would be a natural ambition of any political leader and Nitish is no exception. He has his own ways of projecting his leadership abilities and speaking on behalf of other states is a way of it. The BJP, however, is no mood to take on Nitish on the issue, at least for now.”