The long-standing demand for special status to Bihar has been rekindled by a recent report of NITI Aayog that put the state at the bottom and provided the opposition with fresh ammunition against the NDA, which has been in power for more than a decade.
The NITI Aayog had last week come out with its latest SDG (sustainable development goal) index placing states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh at the top while Bihar with 52 points out of a total of 100 was at the bottom, a spot it has been occupying for long.
On cue, JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha came out with a couple of tweets tagging Prime Minister Narendra Modi whom he requested to reconsider the demand for special category status, asserting that while the Nitish Kumar government in the state had done all it could to improve the overall economic situation, a real turnaround has eluded Bihar.
JD(U) leaders contend that the state has been adversely affected by the carving out of the resource-rich Jharkhand two decades ago.
Notably, the special category status has been a pet demand of Mr Kumar, who has been vehemently raising the same since coming to power in 2005 and often made it a poll plank.
He had promised to support any government that fulfilled this demand while the Congress-led UPA ruled the Centre. He persisted in seeking special status, belying speculation that he will tone down his demand, on returning to the NDA-fold with an assertive PM Modi at the helm.
Mr Kumar frequently wrote letters to the Centre highlighting the raw deal Bihar was getting under the new formula for distribution of tax revenue among the states.
The BJP which has been saddled with similar demands emanating from other states since assuming power at the Centre, has however chosen to remain equivocal.
While the voluble Prime Minister has avoided touching upon the subject, late Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had pinned the blame on the 14th Finance Commission which had allegedly done away with the system of conferring special category status upon weaker states.
K C Tyagi, the JD(U) principal national secretary general and chief spokesman, underscored that special status has been the party’s long-standing demand. “The NITI Aayog report is not a reflection on Nitish Kumar’s performance. Rather, it affirms our stand that Bihar has been wronged and must get its due,” he said.