Not just opposition states but even Congress ruled states like Rajasthan have demanded special status. State Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot has already sought special status from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the ground of social and educational backwardness of the state.
Rejecting his demand, Planning Commission secretary Sindhushree Khullar told the state government as per existing criteria special status can be granted only to hill states. The backward states can get Additional Central Assistance for sectors facing backwardness but not the special status.
The reason was simple.
The special category states have to provide only 10% of matching grant to utilise Central government funds. Other states have to allocating 30%. As the financial requirements of hill states were not high, the annual financial burden on the Central government on account of special status was not big.
“Extending the benefit to states like Bihar would mean curtailing funding of 16 flagship programmes,” a senior plan panel official explained. Such an idea in crucial election year may not be acceptable to the UPA government.
What Nitish’s rally in Delhi on Sunday could fetch is some more money from the Centre for the state like Rajasthan is expected to get on Wednesday. The panel officials expect a 20% increase in Rajasthan’s annual plan for 2013-14, election year for the state. This is when Finance Minister P Chidambaram had increased the plan expenditure by just 6% for the financial year 2013-14.