Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s ruling Janata Dal (United) today downplayed the Congress party’s offer to grant special status to the state if it comes to power. Reacting to the Congress extending support to Nitish Kumar’s demand, party spokesperson Ajay Alok said that the grand old party was in power between 2004 and 2014, but it ignored “our demand”.
“The Congress was in power from 2004 to 2014. Why did it not then take any step in the direction of granting special status to Bihar? Nitish Kumar has been raising the demand even before he became the Chief Minister in 2005. He has been raising the demand more forcefully after assuming power in the state,” Alok said.
The reaction from the JD(U) comes a day after the Congress came out openly in support of Kumar. Party in-charge for Bihar Shaktisinh Gohil had yesterday criticized Prime Minister Narendra Modi for ignoring Kumar’s demand for granting special category status at a meeting of the NITI Aayog in New Delhi earlier this week. Gohil said that he was personally in favour of special status and special package for Bihar and that “if voted to power, the Congress would extend all possible help”.
Gohil’s remark is seen as a fresh attempt by the Congress to bring back Nitish Kumar into the Grand Alliance fold that had ruled the state for 20 months between November 2015 and July 2017. However, Nitish dissolved the government following a series of corruption allegations and joined the BJP-led NDA to form the new government.
In another remark targeting both the BJP and Congress, Alok said that ‘it is a strange thing with big parties’. “They promise special status while out of power but once they form a government, they forget their commitment.”
The JD(U) currently shares power with the BJP. The party has recently upped its ante over the demand to grant special status tag to the state. At the recently held meeting of NITI Aayog in Delhi, Kumar had strongly reiterated his special status demand saying “this was necessary, as Bihar lagged behind on several key areas of human development like per capita income, education, health, electricity, institutional finance and others”.
Kumar’s recent stand on the special status demand is also seen as a tactic to create pressure on the BJP as it wants to contest maximum number of seats in the general elections scheduled for next year.
Meanwhile, former CM Jitan Ram Manjhi has slammed Kumar for is inability to ensure that the special status tag is granted to Bihar. Manjhi noted that Rabri Devi in the capacity of CM had written a letter to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee demanding special status tag. He claimed that after taking Rabri Devi’s demand into account, Vajpayee had then set up a committee headed by Kumar who at that time happened to be a Union minister, to look into the matter, but he didn’t hold a single meeting of the committee.