Buoyed by a massive crowd gathered at the JD(U)'s Adhikar rally, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday said that the Centre was discriminating against his state by denying it a special status and promised to fight till the demand was accepted.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and JD(U) National president Sharad Yadav are seen during the party's Adhikar rally in Patna. PTI
Flanked by JD(U) national president Sharad Yadav, Kumar told the rally at the Gandhi Maidan here that the Centre was adopting a 'discriminatory' attitude towards Bihar as it rejected its repeated pleas to grant the special category status.
Kumar appealed to the people to vote for only that party in the 2014 general elections which would promise to deliver the special category status.
He demanded that the Centre set up a fresh committee to draw a strategy to provide special assistance to Bihar and other states who figure much below the national average in terms of per capita income, consumption of power, education, health among others, to bring them into mainstream.
Kumar also announced that JD(U) would hold a massive rally in Delhi's Ramlila maidan in March next year to put pressure on the Centre to provide the special status to Bihar to help it come at par with the national level on development indexes.
He said November 4 is an important date for the state and the country as it was on this day that the police had lathicharged Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan while he was leading a protest to gherao the Bihar Assembly and legislators as part of the 1974 movement.
"The lathicharge had shaken the chair of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi...today's Adhikar rally is a strong message to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi to stop discrimination against Bihar," Kumar said in his over 40-minutes speech.
The chief minister alleged, "The inter-ministerial group, constituted by the Centre to look into the demand for the special status on the instruction of the Prime Minister, seems to have made up its mind to reject it even before the process of consultation is completed."
While rejecting the demand, the committee, which gave time to the state to present its point of view only four days before it submitted its report, said the state did not fulfil the five conditions, which includes its being a hill state, predominant tribal population and low population density, required for a state to qualify for a special status.
"Though Bihar is not a hill state, the river emanating from the mightly Himalayas is creating havoc in the state through flood every year...it is the responsibility of the Centre to talk to Nepal to find a solution to recurring floods. It has failed to fulfil its responsibility," Kumar declared.
Kumar said the state lagged behind the national average in terms of per capita income, per capita development, consumption of electricity, health and road among others and "it will take at least 25 years to come to the national average if things move at the pace they are doing now."
JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, who spoke before Kumar, also charged the Centre with according a "step-motherly" treatment to Bihar by denying it special assistance through special category status, particularly after its division in 2000 to carve out Jharkhand.
The historic rally venue and its surrounding areas looked like an ocean of people with some riding on camels and horses and others dancing to the sound of drumbeat.
The "Adhikar rally", is the culmination of a series of "Adhikar yatras" undertaken by the chief minister across the state for the past two months.
Alleging that the UPA government never considered the issue of special status for Bihar "sincerely", Kumar said, "After Bihar Assembly passed an unanimous resolution for providing special category state status to Bihar in 2009, an all-party delegation repeatedly sought appointments with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, but it was not given," he alleged.
The state legislative council also passed similar resolution but it also could not yield any result, he said.
"We continued to raise the issue at every platform, including in the National Development Council meeting, and even wrote letters to the PM but to no avail," he said.
Annoyed over repeated denial of attention towards the demand, the JD(U) had launched a signature campaign in 2010 and had set a target to collect one crore signatures.
"But the target was surpassed when we managed to collect 1.25 crore signatures and handed them over to the PM recently," he said.
With the rally considered as an exercise by Kumar to showcase his mass appeal among people before the 2014 general elections, he said, "People of Bihar who have significantly contributed to the development of the country are no longer ready to accept this neglect and will fight the injustice."
Sharad Yadav, alleged that the Union government which had promised to help the state after Jharkhand was carved out of it has always gone back on its promises.
In an indirect attack on RJD president Lalu Prasad, he said "while some people (like Nitish) are involved in the making of Bihar, there are others who are engaged in destroying it."