Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar on Tuesday said Prime Minister Narendra Rs 1.25 lakh crore largesse was an attempt to woo the electorate by repackaging previously promised projects denied to the state over 15 months.
“I ask where is the budgetary provision for the special package? There is no clarity on when and how it would take off. A supplementary budget can be brought but not before November. So, what does it all mean?” Kumar questioned.
He said the package was just skilful jugglery and likened it to the BJP’s previous promise of depositing Rs 15-20 lakh in each Indian’s bank account by bringing back black money from abroad.
“I say check again. Your facts are awry. Was it not central agencies that withheld funds for Bihar, making for their tardy implementation?” Kumar questioned, replying to the PM’s charge of underutilisation of funds by Bihar.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad termed the package an election stunt whose timing raised suspicion while Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed dubbed it as “just jumlebaazi”.
Addressing the media within hours of the conclusion of Modi’s Saharsa Parivartan Rally, Kumar refuted the PM’s accusation that the Bihar CM was arrogant in returning a Kosi flood-relief cheque for Rs 5 crore sent by the Gujarat government in 2010 while also having a habit of seeking assistance for the state.
“How can I be a seeker and arrogant at the same time? This is contradictory. But I do not mind being a seeker for Bihar’s development,” Kumar said and asked, “Did BJP governments never approach UPA governments for grants?”
He justified his decision to return the cheque, saying the Gujarat government headed then by Modi sent it with an intent of self-aggrandizement and not social welfare.
Kumar said Modi’s Bihar package presented “rolled in” old projects, adding that a case in point was the Rs 54,713 crore promised for national highways, which was not grounded in the fact of allocation.
“Where is the alignment of projects or the DPR? Similarly, they have included a hydel project in Banka which was in the pipeline under the previous UPA-2 government. We demanded Rs 40,000 crore for an agriculture roadmap whereas they have given only Rs 3,000 crore,” Kumar said.
“Even in the promise of a new airport for Patna, whether the Centre has factored in the cost of land acquisition is not known. If they do it, when will it be and how, they need to explain that,” he said.
Kumar charged the PM with breaching the spirit of cooperative federalism by insulting state governments and dubbing them “seekers”.
Rahul hits out
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi prodded Modi over the package and said the PM had the habit of doling out such promises for votes. Gandhi feared the special package promise would go the "One Rank One Pension" way.
Hours after Modi announced the Bihar package at a rally in Arrah, Gandhi said he would not be surprised if the PM announced a similar package for Uttar Pradesh before the assembly polls there in 2017.
Gandhi, on a two-day visit to his Lok Sabha constituency Amethi, said Modi had funds for Bihar package, but not for ex-servicemen. His nudge came in the wake of protests by ex-military men, who have been demanding the implementation of the OROP scheme that the PM had promised before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.