The party is upping the ante on special status, with critics calling it a political issue.
New Delhi: The Nitish Kumar-led Janata Dal United (JDU) is trying to regain its lost political ground in Bihar by upping the ante to grant special status to the state. The recent developments came after the Niti Aayog’s recent report on the multidimensional poverty index which had placed Bihar at the bottom in the country. Many political observers and critics who are closely following the developments argue that after the debacle in the Bihar Legislative Assembly elections in 2020 in which the JDU was reduced to 43 seats, the issue of special status is raised by the party to again reposition itself as the prime player in Bihar politics as the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had established themselves as the top contenders after the assembly poll results.
One senior BJP leader on the condition of anonymity said, “Yes, it is a political issue. The demand is not new but now the JDU is using it to reposition itself in the state. JDU is under pressure after the 2020 assembly elections and he is using the issue of special status and caste census to put the BJP under pressure as both these issues are complicated and everyone knows it well.”
The issue is raised even after the central government appointed Raghuram Rajan Committee suggested doing away with the “Special Category” criterion of providing additional assistance to poorer states. Instead, it has proposed a general method for allocating funds from the Central government based on the state’s performance and developmental needs.
Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Patna-based political observer Santosh Kumar Singh said, “It is purely a political issue. The demand is valid in many ways as Bihar is historically backward and needs assistance. But, historical backwardness is true for West Bengal and Odisha also. So, Bihar cannot be an exception. Moreover it is interesting to note that Nitish Kumar raises the issue of special status when he is under pressure or wants to grow on his own. He raised the issue in 2012-13, when he tried to project himself as a national leader. Now, he is under some pressure and is raising it again.”
In recent times Nitish Kumar had also rebuked Deputy CM Renu Devi’s statement that “special status had no meaning as the Center was already giving special assistance to the state”. The CM said that her deputy might not be aware of the whole issue. Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Senior Janata Dal (United) leader and former Bihar minister, Neeraj Kumar said, “We have been raising the special status issue since the very beginning. When Nitish Kumar took oath as CM in 2005 he wrote a letter to the central government. Under the leadership of Nitish Kumar, Bihar has recorded 10% growth rate since 2005, our infrastructure has grown rapidly, but despite all that we are not able to reach the national average as the state has a high population density and many other historical reasons for backwardness. It is accepted worldwide that India can only come in the category of developed country when states like Bihar will develop as we have massive human resources. Hence, after doing extensive work in the field of infrastructure development and other parameters for 15-years we are demanding special status so that our human index will develop. Many districts of Bihar are prone to natural disasters and historical injustice. Hence, it is the need of the hour. Moreover, it was not right on the part of Niti Aayog to compare Bihar with the developed states.”