Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal-United (JD-U) will rake up the issue of centre's denial of special status to the state as one of the top agendas to counter BJP in the upcoming state elections, several party leaders said.
They said this will become a hot topic in the run up to the elections, scheduled for later this year and will be used as an effective means to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA in the state.
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi has again exposed his double standards and his government's apathy for Bihar's development. We will rake this issue during the poll campaign," JD-U state president Vashsisht Narain Singh said.
Modi remained silent over the demand during his public meeting in Muzaffarpur last month. He ignored Nitish Kumar's demand and instead promised a special package of more than Rs.50,000 crore to the state for its development.
Socio-political analyst Soroor Ahmed said the BJP would find it difficult to counter Nitish Kumar's demand. "Modi has given another issue in the hands of Nitish Kumar after (Rashtriya Janata Dal chief) Lalu Prasad's demand to make public the caste-based census," he said.
JD-U leader Neeraj Kumar said Modi, during last Lok Sabha polls, promised a special package but he is yet to fulfil it.
"Modi has made a promise only to give special package of more than Rs.50,000 crore to Bihar. But there is nothing new in it," he said.
He said BJP leaders in Bihar had promised the people that the state will be accorded special status if Modi became the prime minister.
The JD-U has reiterated time and again that special category status is a must for the development of a backward state like Bihar. It pointed out that Bihar's per capita income, investments and electricity consumption are the lowest in the country and it also lags in all human resource indices.
The Raghuram Rajan Committee report had in 2013 identified Bihar as one of the "least developed". The chief minister had then described the committee's report as a victory for Bihar. The committee suggested splitting states into three categories and subsumed the previous special category criteria for providing special assistance to poorer states.
"The demand for special status is the right of 10.5 crore people of the state and the next polls will be an opportunity to give a befitting reply to political forces which scuttled the demand," Nitish Kumar said.
Bihar would take at least 25 years to touch the national average of economic growth without special category status, he added.
The JD-U has held several rallies in Patna and New Delhi on the issue. It has also collected over 10 million signatures and submitted them to President Pranab Mukherjee.
(Imran Khan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)