Bringing to Delhi his battle for special status to Bihar, chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday suggested that his support would be crucial for formation of next government at the Centre and JD(U), which is part of BJP-led NDA, was not averse to exploring other tie-ups.
"Either you give it (special status) now or after 2014, you will have to give it. You will have to accept the demand in circumstances that will be there after 2014. Only one, who feels about the backward, the backward states will occupy the seat of power in Delhi (Centre)," Kumar said addressing 'Adhikar' rally here, dubbed by many as a show of strength.
Alleging that his state has been "discriminated" against, the JD(U)leader said, "We do not have to see either to the left or to the right. We have to look straight."
"The government in Delhi (Centre) should be such, which looks after our interests," he said as the crowd broke into cheers.
His comments were being interpreted as an attempt to maintain equi-distance from both BJP as well as Congress ahead of the next general elections.
At the rally for which leaders of JD(U)'s key ally in Bihar BJP were not invited, Kumar launched a clear counter to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's development plank, saying his state would present the "real model" for progress which takes everyone along.
"We will leave everyone behind and move ahead with development. And we will present a model before the world.
These days development model is being discussed. This model is what takes along everyone together. This is the real development model of India," Kumar said, in an apparent reference to the 'Gujarat model' being touted by Modi.
Welcoming the Centre's proposal to change the criteria for backwardness as well as granting special status to a state, Kumar said this should be implemented soon and his fight was "not only for Bihar but other similar backward states, too". "If policies change, the benefit will not accrue only to Bihar but other backward states as well," he said.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar with his party JD(U)Leader Sharad Yadav and others during Adhikar Rally at Ramlila Ground in Delhi. HT photo/Arvind Yadav
Declaring that the fight for special status to Bihar will go further, Kumar said if the Centre procrastinates giving state special status, people from Bihar will to be ready for the battle ahead.
With the increasing focus of a section in BJP on Modi , discomfiture has only grown in JD(U) as the antipathy between Kumar and Modi is well-known.
In his over 20-minute speech at Ramlila Ground here invoking regional pride, Kumar said that people from Bihar are ignored everywhere and cited the Centre's refusal to give rehabilitation funds for Kosi flood victims and the repeated refusal of the government in past to accord special status to the state.
"We knocked at every door from that of the Prime Minister to Planning Commission....What is the fault of Biharis? Why Bihar does not get the assistance? We are not begging for something. We are seeking our rights. This is our right. Does Bihar not have a right to develop? We have been discriminated against," Kumar said.
In a resolution passed at the rally, the JD(U) said, "the commitment in the Budget speech must now result in its urgent implementation. We seek a time-bound action to accord a special category status to Bihar. We resolve to continue our struggle till this quest for special status is attained." Focussing on the steps taken by him for good governance, Kumar referred to the bicycle scheme in his state and asked "whether the Centre has any such scheme which has benefited so many people in four years." He said the UPA government will have to implement what they have stated and "if they delay, then the people of Bihar will have to prepare themselves.
"We will not rest in peace till we get special status for the state. Those in power in Delhi should be careful. We have come forward to seek our rights".
He said time has come to bring together people of all backward regions so that the "real development" of the country can be ensured.
Kumar will also be meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister P Chidambaram tomorrow to press his demand for special status to Bihar.
Special category status attracts investment in a state as investors get tax benefits. In 1969 while devising formula for sharing central assistance among states, the Fifth Finance Commission acting in line to the Gadgil formula, had accorded special status to three states on the basis of harsh terrain, backwardness and social problems prevailing in these states. The number later rose to 11.
The states which have been granted special category status include Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkin, Tripura and Uttarakhand.
Talking about the need "to do away with two kinds of Indias ---India and Bharat", Kumar questioned whether the India of 21st century will belong only to those living in metro cities. "This division of India and Bharat will not be allowed to remain. We want one kind of Hindustan," he said.
"The Prime Minister always talks about inclusive growth. But for that all regions should develop. There should not be a situation in which few regions develop and others not. If all states develop, the fluctuation in the national growth will stabilise," Kumar said.
At the rally, Kumar said that the Centre should adopt a liberal approach when it talks about bringing about second green revolution in India and its allocations of funds so far was "only a drop in the ocean".
Invoking the "greater identity of being a Bihari rising above caste and communal lines", Kumar said "those sitting in Delhi should recognise the strength of Biharis".
"If people from other states living here unite, who will rule Delhi?.
"Abhi Delhi me ye Jhaanki hai, Ye logon ne angdaai li hai, abhi poori ladaai baaki hai (This is just a beginning in Delhi. People have just woken up, the fight is still not over)," he said.
He also said that the condition in those "narrow" lanes of Delhi where people from Bihar live is "worse than villages".
"We are far below the national average of per capita income, though it has increased somewhat in last few years. We are below in almost all national indices of human resource development.
"We are improving though and if the Centre gives special status to Bihar at this time, the state will chart out on the development path. This is the time that the Centre should extend a helping hand," Kumar said juxtposing the glorious past of Bihar with the present situation and flagging the problems of unemployment and migration from the state.
Kumar also recalled that when he had raised the issue of special status to Bihar first, his political adversaries had said that this will not become a reality.
In the resolution, the party said that the Finance Commission needs to take note and act on the new approach articulated in the Economic Survey and the Budget speech for the devolution of funds.
The Planning Commission should also act in tandem to full adopt this intent of the government in policies and programmes. "Our demand for a special category status emanates from our compelling need to maximise our employment and growth potential".
Addressing the rally, JD-U President Sharad Yadav said that Government shoulf fulfill whatever it has promised regarding the special state issue. "Government of India has begun accepting that Bihar is making maximum progress in the country," he said.
State JD-U President Vashishta Narayan Singh pointed that Kumar had got "an empty" treasury when he had come to power in Bihar in 2005.
The resolution also noted. "Notwithstanding our multiple disadvantages and discrimination, Bihar's recent development record is a source of pride and strength".
At the rally Kumar said that there was a time when people in other cities used to look at Biharis with disdain and call them in a derogatory manner but the scene has now changed.
Sharad Yadav said that this was a 'do-or-die' battle for people of Bihar who have come to Delhi to demand their rights and tell the central government that it is the state's right to get special status.
He recalled that when Bihar was divided in 2000 to create Jharkhand, the then NDA government had promised to give full financial assistance to the state which it is yet to get.
"This will be the axis issue for Bihar. Centre will have to give this right to people of the state," Yadav said.