Bihar Minister Demands Special Category Status For State

A fresh demand for the grant of special category status to Bihar was raised inside the assembly on Friday by a key aide of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is now in the BJP-led NDA.

Power Minister Bijendra Yadav, while presenting his department’s budget before the House, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fulfill the longstanding demand or at least consider providing the state with a “special economic package.”

“I request the Prime Minister, through this House, to consider giving special status to Bihar or a special economic package. We have achieved a lot with our limited resources. So many people have been pulled out of poverty. But a lot more remains to be done. The state has immense potential in the power sector since three sources of energy, water, air, and sunlight are available here in plenty,” said Mr Yadav, the senior most minister in the state cabinet.

Notably, this is the first time that the demand for special status has been raised since Nitish Kumar, the JD(U) president, returned to the BJP-led NDA a month ago. Nitish Kumar has been raising the demand since he took over as the chief minister in 2005.

However, the Modi government has contended that the grant of special category status was no longer possible since the provision was scrapped by the 14th Finance Commission when the Congress-led UPA ruled the Centre.

Nitish Kumar, who was with the INDIA bloc before returning to the NDA, had during that time revived the demand with fresh vigor and promised special category status to not just Bihar but “all backward states” if the anti-BJP coalition came to power.

When Mr Yadav, a former state president of JD(U), raised the demand, those seated beside him included Nitish Kumar as well as Deputy Chief Ministers Samrat Choudhary and Vijay Kumar Sinha, both senior BJP leaders.

Mr Yadav, who is said to have played a key role in the formation of the JD(U)’s short-lived alliance with the RJD, also took the opportunity to express dissatisfaction against the rival party.

Referring to former Deputy CM and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, without mentioning his name, the minister said, “He wants to claim credit for jobs given during the period when the Mahagathbandhan was in power. But they have a problem with Nitish Kumar getting the credit for turning the power sector around.” “The Constitution clearly says that the council of ministers is there to aid and advice the CM. Hence, be it Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Centre or Nitish Kumar in Bihar, they must be given the credit for achievements under their stewardship,” asserted Mr Yadav.

Mr Yadav also objected to the use of the pejorative “paltimar” (turncoat) for Nitish Kumar by Tejashwi, now the leader of the opposition, and reminded the RJD scion of the track record of his father Lalu Prasad, who is the party president.

“He should remember that he became the deputy CM two times, not because of his father, but because of Nitish Kumar. His mother may have been a beneficiary of his father’s benediction, but that was not so in his case,” said Mr Yadav, in an obvious reference to Lalu Prasad’s wife Rabri Devi, who succeeded her husband as the CM in 1997.

Mr Yadav also highlighted “the difference in words and deeds” of Lalu Prasad, who “fought against the Congress in the 1995 assembly polls but leaned on its support two years later to save his government after floating the RJD.” Notably, the RJD came into being as a result of a split engineered in Janata Dal by Prasad, who was facing imminent defeat at the hands of late socialist leader Sharad Yadav in organizational polls.

The Bihar Reorganization Bill, which cleared the way for the carving out of the tribal state, was passed in November 2000, months after the assembly polls in undivided Bihar had thrown a hung assembly and Rabri Devi formed a new government with fresh support from Congress, which made the RJD agree to the creation of Jharkhand.

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