In what would be music to the ears of the Congress and a cause of concern for the BJP, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday complimented both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P Chidambaram for praising the state’s growth rate and promising to “revisit” the special status demand.
Significantly, the Janata Dal-United strongman also expressed oblique criticism of his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi’s model of development.
“Only a party or formation that believes in ‘inclusive growth’ can rule Delhi in 2014,” Kumar said at his ‘Adhikar’ rally at the Ramlila grounds that drew over 100,000 people.
By emphasising on ‘inclusive growth’, a major campaign plank of the Congress, he is sending out distinct political messages to both the Congress and the BJP — the JD-U’s senior partner in the NDA — ahead of Elections 2014.
Kumar’s rally — pressing the case for special status to Bihar — was rich in political messages. Playing on “Bihari sub-nationalism”, he asked supporters to “look neither to the left nor to the right but straight” while campaigning for the “justified and genuine demand” for special status to the state. “The next government at the Centre will be one that supports demands for special category status,” he said.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with his party JD(U)Leader Sharad Yadav and others during Adhikar Rally at Ramlila Ground in Delhi. HT photo/Arvind Yadav
Kumar was soft towards the Congress, but warned the party to heed the demands of underdeveloped states at the earliest. “If special status is not granted immediately, nobody can stop this from happening after the general elections. Only those with pain in their hearts for the poor and backward will rule Delhi in 2014.”
He also sought to reach out to leaders of neighbouring states, including West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee (TMC) and Orissa's Navin Patnaik (BJD), by raising the slogan of developed versus backward states. "This is a fight for Bihar and all other backward states. If the central government relents by amending eligibility guidelines for according special category status, all backward states will benefit and inclusive development will become possible."
Referring to the "Bharat versus India" theory, he said this was not acceptable. "The situation of some states being developed and others being backward is flawed. National GDP figures are fluctuating because the central government is dependent on the performance of just a few developed states," he said.
Talking about the "Bihar model of development", Kumar said it had succeeded because of its philosophy of "inclusive growth". "If this is replicated at the national level, the country's economy can make rapid strides forward and it will become possible for India to leave China behind in a few years."
Strongly arguing the case for special status, Kumar reeled off figures, saying that despite logging the highest growth rate of 12.11% among all states in the past seven years, Bihar was far below the national average on development parameters.
"Bihar provides 122 units of power per person against the national average of 778 units per person. Per capita spending in the state is approximately half of the national level," he added.