Patna: The political situation in Bihar is slowly heating up as differences crop up among the ruling NDA over a fresh demand of special category status to Bihar. While Janata Dal (United) (JD-U) leaders raised the demand in Parliament as well as outside it in the last two days, their ally in the ruling coalition, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have been avoiding making any comments, except a few party leaders who have countered JD-U in public.
By raking up a long pending demand close to the heart of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, JD-U leaders have made it clear to BJP that the party will not compromise with its agenda ahead of the 2020 Assembly polls. But senior BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Gopal Narayan Singh has termed the demand as a "Shigufa" (a way of creating diversion) of JD-U headed by Nitish Kumar. “JD-U is just raising a non-issue,” he said.
The latest differences surfaced after JD-U's MP from Nalanda, Kaushalendra Kumar had raised the demand of special category status to Bihar in the Lok Sabha on November 18 on the ground that the state remains backward with per capita income lower than the national average and there is an urgent need for development. It should be noted for Nalanda is the home district of Nitish Kumar.
Another JD-U MP, Dinesh Chandra Yadav, supported the demand and reminded BJP without naming it that all political parties had supported the proposal of demand of special category status to Bihar in the state Assembly. Yadav said the state still requires special assistance from the Centre for its development just as it did five years ago and earlier.
Also read: Elections 2019: Why Is Nitish Kumar Silent on Special Category Status To Bihar?
JD-U national general secretary K C Tyagi, who is also the party spokesperson, said that the party has raised the demand again in view of ongoing talks taking place in the central government that terms of reference of granting special status to states could be changed.
Earlier, in the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Tyagi had promised to voters in Bihar that if the party wins at least 15 Lok Sabha seats, it will work for getting special category status to the state. The JD-U won 16 of 17 seats it contested.
However, Nitish Kumar was himself remained silent on the issue as the demand was missing entirely from his speeches during the campaign. Only a day before the counting of votes on May 22, Nitish Kumar said the special category status for the state remains a ‘key concern’ and the party is ‘committed’ to pursue the matter despite the Centre declaring it a closed chapter on the basis of 14th Finance Commission recommendations.
“It has remained an important agenda for us, since 2006. The demand has been unanimously endorsed by both houses of the state legislature. Over one crore people have signed in support. The demand has been raised strongly and in a logical manner before the 15th Finance Commission. We have a clear view that a state like Bihar fits the case,” Nitish Kumar had said.
Later in July, JD-U again raised the demand but was ignored by BJP and the NDA government led by Narendra Modi at the Centre.
Ironically, the 15th Finance Commission, led by a former IAS officer N K Singh, in its recommendation had set aside the idea of according special status category to states. Singh, who hails from Bihar, was once a close confidante of Nitish Kumar and also a former JD-U MP.
However, the Opposition including Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Left parties’ leaders have questioned JD-U's demand. "Nitish Kumar should demand Modi to grant special status for Bihar or quit the NDA. But he has no such guts," RJD leader Bhai Virendar said. Former CM and HAM president Jitan Ram Manjhi also questioned JD-U on similar lines.
Also read: Nitish Kumar Refutes Talk of Joining Modi Cabinet
Congress MLA Shakeel Ahmad Khan recalled, “For more than a decade, Nitish Kumar has vociferously demanded the grant of special category status to Bihar — a demand he projected as being indispensable to the state’s development. But much to the surprise for the people of the state he remained silent over this topic during dozens of election meetings during the Lok Sabha polls. It appears he has deliberately kept this issue out of the poll campaign so as to not embarrass its ally BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the BJP-led NDA government last year had repeatedly denied the grant of special status to Bihar.”
Political activist Satya Narayan Madan said, “Nitish Kumar is an opportunist leader. He had been forced by political compulsions to keep mum on this issue in order to keep its ally BJP and Modi comfortable during 2019 polls, unlike 2014 when this was one of the major issue as JD-U then contested alone. It was Nitish Kumar who had raised the issue during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and made it one of the major election planks in the 2015 Bihar Assembly polls.”
He pointed out that, in the past, Nitish Kumar had done everything from launching a signature campaign to taking out rallies in Delhi an Patna to staging dharnas to push for special status for Bihar.
It should be noted that earlier on several occasions, the Bihar CM had stated that the state would take at least 25 years to touch the national average of economic growth, if the special category status was not accorded to it. He used to remind Delhi that Bihar’s per capita income and investment is the lowest in the country. It lags behind on all human development indicators. None of this has changed.
Also read: Operation 2020: BJP Eyeing Riddance of CM Nitish Kumar?
After first raising the issue in 2006, in 2010, Nitish Kumar had even launched a campaign for special category status to Bihar saying it was a right of the people of the state. After that, his party JD-U set a target to collect one crore signatures and submitted 1.25 crore signatures in support of the demand in 2011 to Manmohan Singh, who was then PM. In 2012, he took out the ‘Adhikar Yatra’ (Rights March). He organised other rallies in Patna and Delhi, all in support of the demand.
Special status for Bihar was his party’s main poll plank for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the 2010 Assembly polls, and then the 2014 Lok Sabha and the 2015 Assembly polls.
Nitish Kumar had repeatedly accused Modi of betraying the people of Bihar, as the PM had promised special status to the state during his 2014 Lok Sabha polls campaign. He had raised the issue at the Inter-State Council meeting in Delhi in July 2016. Two months ahead of joining hands with the BJP, Nitish in May 2017 again pressed for special status and assistance to Bihar in a three-page letter submitted to Modi.