In Poll-Bound Bihar, Politics Heats Up Over Special Status

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In Poll-Bound Bihar, Politics Heats Up Over Special Status

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar sharing the stage at a function in Patna on


Patna:  The latest political battle in Bihar as the state heads for Assembly elections is over special economic status for the state. A long standing-demand of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, it has been rejected by the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. The BJP however says Bihar would have no lack of funds.

Mr Kumar has for years pushed for special status for Bihar. Once classified as such, a state would have to bear only 10 per cent of the funding of Central schemes, instead of the 25 per cent share of normal states. Mr Kumar has said special category status for Bihar would mean tax sops for industries in the state, required for developing the state, and more money from the centre for public utility works.

While rejecting the request for special status from Bihar and Orissa, Union Planning Minister Rao Inderjit Singh said in the Lok Sabha on Friday that the Centre would consider giving the states special financial assistance instead.

But the assurance seemed to mean little to the Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United). "The BJP is two-faced. Narendra Modi says one thing in public, and his give does exactly the opposite. In the campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he had promised special status for Bihar. But no one can be misled like this. The people of Bihar will stand against it", said Vashishtha Narayan Singh, the state president of the JD (U), which hopes that its tie-up with Lalu Prasad's RJD can help prevent a rout that they faced in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

With the Assembly polls around the corner, the BJP too is attempting to leverage the issue, saying it is the money that is important to Bihar, and not what it is called. "Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself said last week that the Centre is mulling a financial package in the excess of 50,000 crore rupees for Bihar. What's in a name, as long as there is development in Bihar? The JD (U) wants to create controversy unnecessarily," said senior state BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav.

The National Development Council first accorded special status to Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Nagaland in 1969. Over the years, eight more states were added to the list - Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand. Sources in the Central government have said giving special status to Bihar in an election year could lead to more such demands from other states in the future, which the Central government may not be able to fulfil because of financial constraints.
 


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