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HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times
Patna/New Delhi, March 01, 2013
"Today is the day to thank P Chidambaram," said an overwhelmed Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. The reason for gratitude: in his budget speech, the finance minister had proposed evolving new criteria for determining backwardness of states and awarding them 'special category' status.



"The proposal is a victory, in principle, for Bihar's campaign for special category status," said Kumar. He also thanked Chidambaram for proposing a rethink on the criteria used for devolution of funds to states.

While Kumar ruled out any "political meaning" in his lavish praise for Chidambaram, he continues to be a potential ally in the Congress's internal assessment for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

On its part, while the Congress remains fiercely critical of the BJP, it has never attacked Kumar's leadership in Bihar. In fact, over the past one year, the UPA government has given major social sector sops to the state.

The "special status" issue, however, has been hanging fire for long, pushing Kumar once to remark that he would support any party or alliance at the Centre which met his demand.

On Thursday, Kumar said, "Our (Bihar's) stand on the twin issues has been vindicated. I had met Chidambaram and written to the prime minister on the issue and demanded that the parameters for devolution of funds be based on the national average of per capita income and other human development indices."