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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Cong warms up to Bihar special status demand

Ashok Mishra, Hindustan Times  Patna, January 20, 2013
First Published: 14:47 IST(20/1/2013) | Last Updated: 14:48 IST(20/1/2013)

The Congress could be favourably disposed to discuss the issue of special status to Bihar.

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Senior Bihar Congress leaders attending the ongoing chintan shivir at Jaipur, said that the special status issue was discussed at the party's political affairs group.

The issue of Bihar's development and the demand for special status was discussed but no decision was taken on it. It is at a preliminary stage and it would take shape only after discussing its pros and cons, former Union minister Shakeel Ahmad said.

Bihar party president Chaudhary Mehboob Ali Kaiser confirmed a preliminary voicing of such a sentiment by Jairam Ramesh and its attestation by a motely group from Bihar.

Ahmad, however, expressed caution: It would be too premature to derive any political meaning out of it.

We are concerned about Bihar's development needs, but equally opposed to the kind of politics Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar is trying to conjure on the issue, he said.

Senior party leaders including Kapil Sibal reportedly said at the meeting on Saturday, that the time was ripe to seriously consider the issue of Bihar's development.

While the issue could be, or not be taken up, the views of a section of the leaders augur well for Bihar, in at least that, chief minister Nitish Kumar's demand has struck a chord with his opposite camp.

While, nothing more could be deducted from the sentiments of the Congress leaders, on whether they consider Kumar a key political ally for the future, Bihar chief minister's recent quip, that the JD(U) could consider alliance with any political formation that stands by Bihar's demand had already set tongues wagging in Patna.

The Congress sentiments, albeit within a small group, has been voiced at a time, when the RSS and a major section of the BJP, including in Bihar are vociferously supporting the demand to pitch Gujarat chief minister as the NDA coalition nominee for prime ministership in 2014, a stand to which the JD(U) is totally opposed to.

The JD(U) had suggested, that such declarations should not be made without consultation with allies and prematurely.

The fact that a recent move in the BJP, JD (U)'s main ally, to make Gujarat chief minister Narendra  Modi the chairman of the national campaign committee for the 2014 general elections at a time, when the state BJP has pitched for a president, who would ensure the coaliton dharma.

JD(U) insiders are certain, that a coalition led by Modi would not be to the liking of Kumar, who is certain to walk out.

Their deduction from the Jaipur development in the Congress is that it could be a considered feeler or even reciprocation and reminder, that for Nitish, a possible alliance with Congress may not be so far.

Kumar, who has made the special status demand a tool for political bargain, has decided to mount further pressure on the Congress-led UPA government by holding a massive rally at the Ramlila ground in New Delhi on March 17 even as he is in parleys with other chief ministers of backward states to adopt a common line on the issue.

With Nitish sticking to the issue, the Congress had taken a softer line on the issue, with Union finance minister P Chidambaram recently making a statement in the Rajya Sabha to the effect, that a revision in the existing criteria for granting special category status to states like Bihar may be possible.

Party general secretary, Shivanand Tiwai was reticent, though.

"We appreciate the sentiments, but it is not as if, we are waiting to rush into the Congress's arms. We will wait and see. There is no quid proquo, no commitment", he said.

Rural development minister, Bhim Singh said, "It is clear that the chief minister's constant pressure is working.

Coalition deals are, however, sealed at higher levels and until the situation is clearer, there can be no comment of any certainty".

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