Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar did some damage control today over his Deputy Renu Devi’s comment that Bihar does not need Special Category status. Without naming the Deputy Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar said special status — which entitles a state to a bunch of Central privileges — is very essential for Bihar. “So if someone says it is not, it is possible that person did not understand the issue… he is clueless,” he said.
Two days ago, Renu Devi, who belongs to the BJP, had said at the party office in Patna that there is “no need for special status”.
Over the years, the Chief Minister has kept up the pressure on the BJP over the Special Category status demand for his state despite the Centre’s firm discouragement on the issue.
The Centre has never formally responded to Bihar’s request for special status. The 14th Finance Commission has effectively removed the concept and Special Category status, then Union minister Arun Jaitley had said in 2018, can now be granted only to states of the northeast.
In October 2018, NK Singh — chief of the 15th Finance Commission — said it was not empowered to provide special category status, since it was “outside our ambit”.
What gave a boost to Mr Kumar’s demand now was a report by the government think tank Niti Aayog that ranked Bihar as the state with the worst performance on most parameters.
In June, NITI Aayog’s Sustainable Development Goal index placed states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh at the top. With 52 points out of 100, Bihar was placed at the bottom — a spot it has been occupying for years.
Bihar has been contending that carving out the resource-rich state of Jharkhand has hit it badly. Plus the Centre’s new formula of distribution of tax revenue among states has added to its troubles.
Ahead of the 2014 general elections, Mr Kumar had promised to support any government that fulfilled this demand.
In the state, meanwhile, Tejashwi Yadav and his Rashtriya Janata Dal have kept up the pressure on Mr Kumar’s government, contending that the people are “extremely upset” with the “double engine sarkaar”.