The new found cosines between Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and the UPA government would translate into the state getting around 21% increase in the Central funding for 2013-14, one of the highest for any state in the current financial year.
Kumar had shown extraordinary courtesy towards finance minister P Chidambaram when he visited Patna last week. Kumar took Chidambaram in his own car to the Bihar Congress headquarters at Sadaquat Ashram in western Patna, waited outside as the finance minister confabulated with party workers and then saw him off at the Patna airport. It was enough to create political buzz in Patna.
When Kumar would be in Delhi on Wednesday to discuss the state plan with planning commission deputy chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the Centre would also reciprocate. The panel would offer Bihar Rs. 34,000 crore for 2013-14, a hike of around Rs. 6,000 crore as compared to the annual plan for 2012-13.
It would be generous grant because the UPA government on average increased funding to the states this year between 15-18 %. Even the Congress ruled states such as Haryana and Assam did not get the increase in absolute terms as compared to what is being offered to Bihar.
The keenness to keep Kumar in good humor before next general elections in 2014 was evident on Tuesday when a plan panel committee met to clear new projects and review old proposals from Bihar under the backward regions grant fund (BRGF).
The Cabinet has already decided to allocate Rs. 12,000 crore to Bihar as part of a special plan under BRGF for the 12th plan (2012-17). The committee considered proposals for allocation of Rs. 2,000 crore to the state in the current fiscal under BRGF. “I think that Kumar would be happy with us,” said a senior planning commission functionary, expecting lot some debate over Kumar’s unmet demand of special category status for Bihar.
Although the government is offering huge monetary increase, Bihar’s record is utilizing funds has not been excellent. Of the Rs. 1,500 crore allocated under BRGF special plan for 2012-13, the state was able to utilise only Rs. 800 crore.
In another programme to check backwardness in naxal affected areas, Bihar utilization of funds was just 60 % of Rs. 635 crore on offer. There were some districts like Kaimr and Munger which did not seek even a single penny during 2012-13 against the allocation of Rs. 30 crore for a district under Integrated Action Plan (IAP) to carry out developmental works in left wing extremist districts, the panel said in its review of the scheme.
Bihar record on implementing some big ticket projects has also been dismal even though it promises to grow economically at an average of 9.1% in the 12th plan as compared to national target of 8.2 %. The state wants to increase its spending on agriculture and social sectors.