|Chief minister Nitish Kumar addresses a news conference at the JD(U) office in Patna
on Thursday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh
Patna, Sept. 26: Nitish Kumar today fully endorsed the Raghuram Rajan committee report, describing it as the victory of his principles and the long standing struggle of the people of Bihar.
“The protracted struggle of the people of Bihar for their right to prosper has yielded fruit. The Rajan committee report is testimony to the fact that our long struggle for special category status has heralded a fundamental change in the treatment to Bihar, along with nine other least developed states,” the chief minister said in a news conference soon after the report was made public by Union finance minister P. Chidambaram.
Nitish chose to paper over the fact that the panel had not specifically recommended special category tag to Bihar — which has been the key demand of the chief minister and over which he is willing to pledge his party’s political support. “The Union finance minister has already stated that the demand for funds and special attention of different states would be more than adequately met by the twin recommendations of 0.3 per cent of the overall funds to each state and the categorisation of states that scored 0.6 and above as ‘least backward’.”
He clarified that the report, contrary to the “negative propaganda” by its opponents, had effectively paved the way for more concessions like tax holidays and other special favours to the states scoring 0.6 on the development index. “We would have been happier had the Rajan committee adopted per capita income rather than per capita consumption as the criteria for deciding the multi-dimensional index (MDI) for backwardness. Still, we are happy as our struggle has executed a fundamental change in the discourse on development and economic policies of the Centre.”
Though Nitish parried a question on whether the report would pave the way for an alliance between the JD(U) and the Congress for the next general election, he did not rule it out either. “We are going to have our party’s conclave on October 28 and 29. We will discuss the issue of alliance among ourselves after our conclave,” he said, while profusely thanking finance minister Chidambaram for recognising the concerns of Bihar.
JD(U) insiders revealed that the party, after its split with the BJP, was fast heading towards converting its growing bonhomie with the Congress into a political alliance ahead of the 2014 polls. “The Centre recently provided us a special assistance of Rs 12,000 crore, indicating that it was quite positive about Bihar,” Nitish said.
That the Congress was reaching out to Nitish and ignoring Lalu Prasad for now became obvious when the RJD boss, whose party has supported the UPA-II regime, attacked the Rajan committee’s report and slammed Nitish for endorsing it without getting “nothing”. In fact, speaking in tune with BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, Lalu said: “The report has virtually rejected the demand for special category status which the Rabri Devi government had initially made after carving out Jharkhand from Bihar in 2000. Nitish, who talks about sticking to his principles, has no face to show for the Rajan committee has effectively turned down what Nitish stood for.”
Modi too said the Rajan panel had negated the very concept of special category status. “If Nitish finds the report commendable, why did the lone member from Bihar, Shaibal Gupta, give his note of dissent in the report.” Gupta, who is away in London, was not available for comment.
When pointed out that nine other states — Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan — have almost been evenly treated despite Bihar leading the demand, Nitish said: “It is a matter of happiness for us that our struggle has benefited many other backward regions. Our struggle will go a long way in removing the regional imbalance.”
Asked about the quantitative benefit that the state would get, the chief minister said: “I earnestly request the Centre to implement the report expeditiously. Wait till the report is examined and implemented as per Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s instructions. It will positively benefit the state.”