Patna, March 19: Scoring a political point, chief minister Nitish Kumar was visibly happy today over the response of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union finance minister P. Chidambaram on “revisiting” the states’ backwardness criteria but the JD(U)’s ally — the BJP — looked unimpressed.
Describing the JD(U)’s Adhikar Rally in New Delhi as a grand success, Nitish said his parleys with Singh, Chidambaram and vice-chairman of the planning commission ended on a positive note.
Landing here, he said: “The JD(U) played the role of a political instrument in the demand for special status.”
He stressed that the Centre should accord special status to Bihar before the Lok Sabha polls in 2014. He warned the Centre against constituting a commission or a committee to look into the demand for a limitless time, which the BJP leaders fear.
“There is still is a long battle ahead. Constituting a committee or a commission for recommendations is typical of the Congress. This process may take years. After the panel gives its recommendations, the issue has to be decided in the National Development Council Meet, where there would be substantial pulls and pushes from many states for getting the economic incentives,” said a senior BJP leader, recalling that deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi had expressed his scepticism on getting anything positive by meeting the Prime Minister and Chidambaram.
A BJP leader said had the Congress wanted to woo allies, it could have approached Trinamul Congress chief and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who has a Congress background unlike Nitish. His political career is based on non-Congress ideologies, he said.
“Mamata, the UPA’s estranged ally, had demanded a moratorium on interest payment for Centre’s loan. The demand was rejected on the grounds that it would open a floodgate for other states to make similar demands,” said the BJP leader. The Congress has offered Nitish a “political issue” to boast of. In real terms, it still does not amount to much.
The incentives given by the Centre to the states enjoying the special status vary. The period for which the status is granted also keeps changing. The special status of Jammu and Kashmir is for an unlimited period while the Northeast states would enjoy it till 2016. The tax holiday for industries in Uttarakhand has been withdrawn. Despite being special status bracket, few industrialists have gone to the Northeast.
Recently, a renowned economist questioned the utility of special status for Bihar in a function here. He pointed out that the main problem for industries in Bihar was unavailability of land because the government did not want to acquire it directly. Private parties find negotiating with several landowners to acquire 100 acres of land difficult. Both the chief minister and his deputy were present at the function.
“The chief minister strongly defended his demand for special status to the state, but could not reply to the economist’s statement,” recalled another BJP leader.