The Rs 1.25 lakh crore special package for Bihar announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday seems to have opened a Pandora’s box for the ruling BJP, with regional allies staking their claim to similar sops.
Even fence-sitters who could be potential supporters for the NDA in pushing key bills through Parliament have slammed the Centre for overlooking similar demands of their respective states pending over long periods while Bihar got a package just ahead of its assembly elections.
“Punjab deserves this (financial) package the most in the country. We are not seeking any concession from the Centre. A special economic package is our right,” chief minister Parkash Singh Badal said on Wednesday, indicating his disappointment over denial of financial package to Punjab.
Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee took a more diplomatic line. “We are not opposed to any package for a state. But the Centre should also consider our pending demands,” Banerjee said.
However, another potential supporter, Biju Janata Dal’s Lok Sabha leader Bhartruhari Mahtab was blunt in his assessment. “All our attempts to impress the Modi government seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Now our first priority will be to protect the interests of our state,” he said, indicating his party might bargain harder if the NDA sought its support to pass key bills.
Telugu Desam Party, a key ally of the NDA at the centre, said they are demanding nothing less than a special category status for the newly-curved state of Andhra Pradesh. The BJD too, pitched for a special category status for Odisha.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu has met PM Narendra Modi five times and finance minister Arun Jaitley 11 times in the past year over his demand for special status to his state. He is scheduled to meet the PM again next week.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav has so far written 100 letters to the PM and Union ministers, listing 44 demands pertaining to the funding of central government-aided projects and a development package for Bundelkhand promised by successive governments at the Centre.
Some of the demands include release of fund for highways, construction of rail overhead bridges/tracks, international airports at Firozabad, Kushinagar and Agra, Establishment of AIIMS at Gorakhpur, Bundelkhand package, education for all project, flood control and irrigation, Metro project in Lucknow and Ghaziabad, establishment of power plants and allotment of coal blocks.
Trinamool’s Derek O’Brian claimed that apart from a flood management package, the state is expected to get almost Rs 10,000 crore under Backward Region Grant Fund. When asked what can be the political impact of announcing a Bihar-only package, he said, “People are watching everything and they will give a befitting reply. ”