The Bihar Post

Give us 15 seats and JD-U will work for Special status: Nitish’s unique offer to Bihar voters

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The ruling Janata Dal United (JD-U) in Bihar headed by chief minister Nitish Kumar is promising “moon” to the voters now with five phases of Lok Sabha elections are already over in the state.

The party is asking the masses to help it win at least 15 Lok Sabha seats in the elections so that it is in a position to put pressure on the new government to grant special category status to Bihar—a demand which an inter-ministerial group formed on September 8, 2011 has already rejected.

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“If we win 15 seats or more, then our first priority will be to force the new government grant special category status to Bihar though the 15th Finance Commission says it has basic problems in granting this status,” JD-U general secretary KC Tyagi told a section of media on Tuesday.

The JD-U which is now a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance is contesting on 17 out of Bihar’s total 40 Lok Sabha seats this time. Another 17 seats are being contested by the BJP while the remaning six seats have been left for the Lok Janshakti Party of Ram Vilas Paswan.

Granting special category status to Bihar has been the long-pending demand of the JD-U for which it held state-wide rallies in Bihar and even handed out trunk-load of signatures obtained from the masses to PM but it set the issue aside once it joined the NDA.

Never during the 22 months since it joined the NDA in July 2017, the JD-U raised this demand before Prime Minister Narendra Modi but now that the month-long polling is coming to a close, it has raked up the issue afresh.

Experts are wondering the very promise for two reasons—first the JD-U almost ignored the issue while in company of Modi and secondly the inter-ministerial group has already rejected this demand long back. So how can it make promise to the voters, they ask.

The 15th Finance Commission that visited the state in October last year too has expressed its inability to meet this demand.

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“Deciding on the special status demand is not a part of our mandate and doesn’t come under our purview. We will not transgress our mandate,” was how Commission chairman NK Singh told the state government in October last year, adding the special status demand should be examined by an independent body.

Strangely, for the past several months, the Nitish Kumar government had been preparing the draft of a memorandum to be submitted to the 15th Finance Commission to seek for special category status for Bihar by raising strong grounds therein but it rejected the request in one stroke.

The setback back despite the fact that the chief minister had at the meeting strongly put up the case of his state and reiterated his demand for granting special category status to the state to compete with developed states.

“Bihar is a land-locked state, comes in the seismic zone, 70 percent of its area is affected by floods and there is no investment in trade and industry like the coastal regions,” Kumar had said but his appeal went in vain.

Earlier, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Ministry of Planning Rao Inderjit Singh had made similar observations over granting special category status to Bihar.

“An inter-ministerial group formed on September 8, 2011 had earlier discussed the issue of granting special category status to Bihar. It presented its report on March 30, 2012. The group on the basis of the present criteria fixed by the NDC, had come to the conclusion that Bihar can’t be granted Special Category stats…There is no change in this criteria till date,” was how read a letter sent to Madhepura MP Pappu Yadav by Mr Singh.

The letter was sent on September 13, 2017 in response to Yadav seeking centre’s to clarification over Special Category status to Bihar.

Very strangely, one of the main reasons why Nitish Kumar had dumped the Grand Alliance and joined the NDA was his hope to get his long-pending demand for special category status to Bihar fulfilled but that remains unfulfilled though he had NDA government both in Bihar and at New Delhi.

Does Nitish Kumar feel cheated?

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