Nitish Kumar cites P Chidambaram’s 2013 Bihar visit, says UPA failed to reciprocate

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Patna | January 21, 2019 8:18 PM

Kumar's gesture to accompany Chidambaram to Sadaqat Ashram had triggered speculation the JD(U) chief might abandon BJP to ally with Congress.

Nitish Kumar, UPA government, P Chidambaram, Bharatiya Janata Party, JD(U) chief, narendra modiOn Monday, Kumar lamented that the Manmohan Singh government merely set up a committee to look into his demand for special status “but did nothing”. (AP)

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Monday expressed resentment that the previous UPA government did not reciprocate the “enormous respect” he showed to former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram during his visit to Bihar in 2013, by granting special status to the state. Kumar recalled in detail Chidambaram’s visit in May that year. He said he saw Chidambaram off to Sadaqat Ashram, the Bihar Congress headquarters, in Patna in his vehicle from Rajgir, around 100km from the state capital as the then finance minister’s helicopter had developed a snag. “Enormous respect was given to him. All this proved to be of no use,” Kumar said.

Kumar’s gesture to accompany Chidambaram to Sadaqat Ashram had triggered speculation the JD(U) chief might abandon BJP to ally with Congress. Eventually, he did quit the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party a month later. On Monday, Kumar lamented that the Manmohan Singh government merely set up a committee to look into his demand for special status “but did nothing”.

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He made the remarks when deflecting a question from reporters on whether he would put pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had promised to give special status to Bihar during the 2014 election campaign, to fulfil the promise ahead of NDA’s proposed rally in Patna in March. On coming to power, the Modi government held the view that special category was done away with by the UPA government as per recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission; hence it was no longer possible to accept demands for it by states such as Bihar and Telangana.

Asked about the proposed rally of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi on February 3 where, the party’s leaders claim, he will expose the failures of the NDA government in the state, Kumar said cryptically, “I would love to see that.” “I hope he would also talk about how we lobbied for Congress getting 40 seats in the last assembly election when Lalu Prasad, their old ally, was not ready to give more than 15.”

Last week, Kumar blamed his exit from the Grand Alliance on Gandhi’s inability to take a stand when the government in the state was rattled by corruption allegations against RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, then the deputy chief minister. On the RJD and the Congress opposing the use of electronic voting machines, Kumar said EVMs “must remain”.

“These (machines) have played a role in minimizing electoral malpractices. We had made our views known to the Election Commission when its team visited the state last week. “But we have also said that VVPATs should be made available at all booths and the EC has concurred,” he said. Kumar said his party has also suggested the EC that there be a mechanism to ensure voter slips are handed over only to the intended recipients to avoid bogus voting.

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