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Nitish mum on special category state demand for Bihar, Jay Amit Shah controversy

The change in political dynamics, caused by Kumar’s decision to jettison the ‘grand alliance’ and form a new government with the BJP, in July, was in full play as the normally candid Kumar chose to keep his counsel.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2017 21:16 IST
Anil Kumar
Anil Kumar
Hindustan Times, Patna
Bihar CM,Nitish Kumar,Spl category demand
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar talking to reporters in Patna on Monday. (Santosh/HT photo)

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar does not intend to flag his long pending demand for grant of special category status for Bihar during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to the state, on October 14. He said, “the subject is a matter of mutual discussion but not scheduled for now.”

He also side stepped a volley of questions on the raging political controversy over the rise in turnover recorded by a company owned by Jay Shah, son of BJP chief Amit Shah, on the plea that he was “not familiar with the facts of the matter.”

The change in political dynamics, caused by Kumar’s decision to jettison the ‘grand alliance’ and form a new government with the BJP, in July, was in full play when the normally candid Kumar, flanked by his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP, tactfully handled persistence of newsmen to read his mind on Jay Shah’s Temple Enterprise.

The matter has come under public scrutiny since a website claimed the company recorded a turnover of Rs 80.5 crore in 2015-16, up from Rs 50,000 the year before. The Shahs have threatened to sue the news portal for putting out an unsubstantiated story.

Kumar said that unless he was aware of the facts, there was no point in reacting on the subject. “I have just returned from attending the funeral of a senior socialist leader,” he said.

The chief minister was more open on the special category state status question when he said that it would help the state in accelerating investments, besides lessening the burden of matching grant for the state in central schemes from 40 to 10%.

“Bihar is a land-locked state and unless special incentives are provided, investors will not invest here”, he said, while ruling out that the government would be taking up the issue not listed in the schedule, with the PM, this time.

He, however, acknowledged that the attitude of Centre, be it towards road construction, infrastructure creation, power or providing LPG connection for poor, was ‘very positive’ towards the state and would help in accelerating development.

“The inauguration of work on road and other projects by PM is part of the 1.25 lakh crore package,” he clarified to a question regarding the fate of the special package.

Kumar also defended the BJP leadership against Yashwant Sinha’s charge that demonetization and GST had slowed down the economy, saying ,“both the moves were good steps that will help in curbing black money and bringing transparency in business.”

The chief minister said he has suggested universalisation of LPG scheme and offered a reduction in kerosene quota for the state, which will entitle it for additional grant.

Kumar said that the centre’s appeal for a reduction in VAT rates was general in nature and the recalculation of base price of petrol would do the trick for Bihar.

Explaining that VAT rates for petrol and diesel, at 26% and 19% respectively, were much lower than in majority of the states, he said if the base price was recalculated for Bihar it would lead to a substantial reduction in price of petrol.

In Jharkhand the base price for petrol is Rs 51 only against Rs 55 for Bihar. Now with the roll out of GST, entry tax would get neutralized with input credit. It is time to revisit the calculation, he said, adding “we will also discuss it among ourselves.”

First Published: Oct 09, 2017 21:16 IST