The Bihar cabinet on Wednesday passed a resolution seeking special status for the state. The development was revealed by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar via social media shortly after the cabinet meeting concluded.
The special status has been a long-standing demand of JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar and the fresh pitch was backed by the RJ(D), who is in alliance with the CM's party in the state.
"The cabinet has passed a resolution requesting the Centre to grant special category status to Bihar," CM Nitish Kumar wrote in a lengthy post in which he also said that the fresh demand was necessitated by findings of the caste survey his government carried out in the state.
"We intend to provide, in instalments, an assistance of Rs 2 lakh to one member of each of these families for some type of economic activity," said Kumar, adding that his government was also committed to building pucca houses for "39 lakh families living in huts" and every such household will be provided Rs 1.20 lakh for the purpose.
Kumar said that while the rise in the percentage of the population of the deprived castes has led to an increase in the quotas for SCs, STs and OBCs from 50 to 65 per cent, his government also planned to undertake a number of welfare measures for the benefit of 94 lakh families, which according to the survey lived in abject poverty.
However, BJP leader Sushil Kumar Modi called the renewed demand "flogging a dead horse".
Kumar said his government had been providing assistance of Rs 60,000 to landless families for purchasing land but has now decided to raise the sum to Rs 1 lakh which would benefit 63,850 such households identified in the survey.
"The implementation of all such measures will cost Rs 2.5 lakh crore. Because of the huge sum involved, we have set a deadline of five years from now for the completion of the schemes. But if we get special category status, we will be able to accomplish the task in a much shorter time," said Kumar.
The JD(U) leader, who is the state's longest-serving chief minister, also recounted that he had been "raising the demand for special status since 2010" and rallies to press the demand were addressed by him here in 2012 and a year later at the Ram Leela Maidan in Delhi.
"To look into our demand, the government at the Centre had set up a committee headed by (former RBI governor) Raghuram Rajan which submitted its report but nothing came of it. In May 2017, we again wrote to the Centre requesting special status... it is my request that the Centre agree to the demand keeping in view the interests of the people of Bihar," said Kumar.
Notably, Kumar, who had dumped the BJP last year and has emerged as a key figure of the opposition INDIA coalition, has been asserting that if the new formation formed the next government at the Centre, he would press for "special status to all backward states".
Hoping to galvanise the deprived castes in his favour with the rise in quotas, Kumar has of late been renewing the long-standing demand with fresh vigour. He raised the demand on the floor of the assembly recently when the bills for an increase in quotas in jobs and educational institutions were tabled before the House.
Last week, he had threatened to launch a state-wide agitation if the demand for special category status was not met.
In the evening, journalists approached Lalu Prasad for his comments at the airport, where the RJD supremo had reached to board a flight for Delhi.
"Yes, Bihar should get special status," said Prasad and when asked whether he thought the Narendra Modi government would agree to the demand, quipped, "it may not, but we are working towards its ouster from power".
In a statement, Modi said under the current dispensation at the Centre, "Bihar has received financial assistance of more than Rs 1 lakh crore. Granting of special status was done away with as per recommended of the 14th Finance Commission under the previous Manmohan Singh government".
"Instead of flogging a dead horse with his political stunt, Nitish Kumar should ask the Congress, which headed the UPA, and Lalu Prasad, who was its influential ally, why Bihar did not get special status while the coalition enjoyed power at the Centre for two consecutive terms," added Modi.
- With PTI inputs