Patna, Sept. 26: Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar today welcomed the Raghuram Rajan committee report, saying the state’s “long struggle” for special attention had finally paid off.
“The protracted struggle of the people of Bihar for their right to prosper has yielded fruit,” the Janata Dal (United) leader told a media conference soon after Union finance minister P. Chidambaram had made the report public.
“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,” Nitish added.
The report fixes a new criterion for backwardness and the need of each state. It named Bihar as one of the 10 “least developed” states that could be targeted for additional assistance.
Nitish chose to paper over the fact that the panel had not specifically recommended the special category tag for Bihar, a key demand 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’,” Nitish said.
The Rajan panel ranked the states on a scale of 0 to 1 — the higher the index, the more the need for assistance. Bihar’s score was 0.765.
Nitish said the report had effectively paved the way for more concessions like tax holidays and other special favours. “We would have been happier had the Rajan committee adopted per capita income rather than per capita consumption as the criterion for deciding the multi-dimensional index 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.”
He parried questions on whether the report would lead to an alliance with the Congress for the 2014 general election, but did not rule it out. “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, adding the Centre had recently provided Bihar a special assistance of Rs 12,000 crore.
State rival Lalu Prasad, whose RJD backs the central government, slammed Nitish for endorsing a report that “virtually rejected the demand for special category status”.
BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi, Nitish’s deputy before the Dal (U) walked out of the NDA, said: “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 in London, was not available for comment.