A month after Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi pitched in for a national role at a much-publicised address to students at the Sri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC), Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar will address a rally in the Capital on March 17.
While Modi’s focus at the SRCC address was the possibility of replicating Gujarat’s developmental model at the national level, the focus of Kumar’s rally — to be held in Delhi’s Ramlila grounds — will be on making a strong case to get special status for Bihar and on bread and butter issues.
But unlike Modi, who has been non-committal on speculations concerning his prime ministerial ambitions, Kumar has categorically ruled out such aims. “But, in the current political climate, comparisons between the two leaders are inevitable”, said an observer.
Bihar Janata Dal (United) chief Vashisht Narain Singh said it is misplaced to link Modi’s address with Kumar’s proposed rally. “The JD(U) has been consistently campaigning on this (special status) issue. This is a non-partisan issue relating to the development of a backward state…,” he said.
Significantly, BJP leaders (JD(U)’s coalition partner) are not participating in the March 17 rally.
“It is only the JD(U) that has consistently campaigned on this issue. Now, even the finance minister has agreed to take a “relook” at the demand for a special status,” JD(U) legislator Sanjay Singh said.
Growing warmth in Nitish, Cong ties?
The exit of governor Devanand Konwar has added to perceptions of growing warmth in ties between Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and the Congress and the Centre.
Konwar, as chancellor of universities, had rubbed the CM the wrong way by re-appointing vice-chancellors whose appointment had been quashed by the Patna high court.
The first sign of improving ties surfaced last year when Kumar’s JD(U) broke ranks with BJP-led NDA partners to back Congress nominee Pranab Mukherjee for the post of president.
In February, even as the BJP slammed the Union budget, Kumar thanked finance minister P Chidambaram for indicating that the criteria for granting special category state status to Bihar would be reconsidered.
Yet another positive signal came earlier this week when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh praised Bihar’s growth in a tweet.