Patna: Contrary to the fresh demand of special category status to Bihar by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his party's (Janata Dal-United (JD-U)) leaders, his cabinet colleagues from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an ally in the ruling coalition, have raised questions against it. One after another, four Bihar ministers from BJP in the last 24 hours made it clear that they are not with Kumar's demand of special category status to the state.
Unlike Kumar and JD-U leaders, who have made a fresh pitch for special category status to Bihar, BJP leaders have launched a campaign to negate it. In a clear-cut political message, Bihar Labour Minister Jeevesh Mishra, a senior BJP leader, said on Wednesday that Bihar is already a special state, and the BJP-led central government has been providing special packages to the state for its development.
"Bihar Vishesh Rajya hi hai (Bihar is already a special state)," he said.
Without naming Kumar and his party leaders, Mishra said those raising the issue of special category status to Bihar should know that there is a criterion and specific rule for it. As per the rule, Bihar does not fulfil its parameters and is not fit for it.
"By repeatedly demanding special category status to Bihar is a ploy to deviate people from reality that the state has become a special state," Mishra said.
On Wednesday, another senior BJP leader and Bihar Agriculture Minister Amrender Pratap Singh said the central government has been providing special help to Bihar and giving special packages.
"Those demanding special category status to the state, they are free to do so, but central government special focus is on Bihar's development."
Bihar Forest, Environment and Climate Change Minister Neeraj Kumar Singh, a senior BJP leader, said there was no need for special category status to the state.
"Though Bihar is not fulfilling the criteria for a special category status, the central government has been doing everything for its development like a special state. Bihar is getting a special package as well."
Similarly, Bihar PHED Minister Rampreet Paswan, a senior BJP leader, said the central government has been providing all help and plenty of funds for the development.
"The Prime Minister has already given a special package and adequate money for development. I don't know what special category status is and how it will benefit Bihar."
"Main mantri hum lekin aaj tak hamein samajh mein hi nahi aya ki vishesh rajya ka darja kya hota hai (I am a minister. Still, I don't know what a special category status is."
Earlier, Bihar deputy Chief Minister Renu Kumari, a senior BJP leader, questioned the relevance of such demand and claimed that the central government, led by Narendra Modi, has been giving more funds to the state than to special category status.
"The Centre is already providing adequate funds for the development of the state, which is more than the state could get under special category status. There is no need for special category status to Bihar," she said.
However, Kumar and his cabinet colleagues from his party JD-U have been raising the need for special category status to the state. Earlier this month, Bijendra Yadav, Bihar Minister for Planning and Implementation, a senior JD-U leader and considered close to Kumar, strongly demanded special category status to NITI Aayog vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar in a letter.
Yadav cited NITI Aayog's recent report on the multidimensional poverty index in which Bihar was placed at the bottom in the country. He also said that per capita income, ease of living, and human development are below the national average.
By raking up a long pending demand close to Kumar's heart, JD-U leaders have made it clear to BJP that the party will not compromise its agenda. Kumar and his party have raised this issue repeatedly for political purposes. In the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, KC Tyagi, national spokesperson of JD-U, had promised 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. But Kumar failed to get his old demand of special category status to Bihar despite sharing power with the BJP-led NDA in the state and at the centre.
However, Kumar was silent on the issue as the demand was missing entirely from his speeches during the Bihar Assembly polls campaign in 2020. Special status for Bihar was his party's central poll plank for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the 2010 Assembly polls, and then the 2014 Lok Sabha and the 2015 Assembly polls as well.
Political watchers here said that in the past, Kumar had done everything from launching a signature campaign to taking out rallies in Delhi and 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 on all human development indicators. None of this has changed.