PATNA—There seems to be no end of troubles for Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. Even as he faces serious embarrassment for failing to convince the BJP, his own ally, to go for caste census, Kumar has come under fire once again now with his party, the JD-U, dropping the decade-old demand for granting special category status to Bihar and rather seeking special assistance for the state, inviting bitter comments from the opposition.
Granting special status to Bihar has been the long-pending demand of the JD-U. It raised the issue soon after the party came to power in November 2005. How the party saw in it a mega opportunity to consolidate its vote-bank can be underlined from the fact that the chief minister held a mega “Adhikar Rally” in Patna’s Gandhi Maidan in November 2012. Buoyed up by an impressive crowd, the JD-U later held a rally in Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan to seek for this status to the state.
The hope for fulfillment of this demand got brightened when the chief minister joined the NDA after breaking alliance with the RJD with which support he had won the 2015 assembly elections in Bihar. At the media conference, he formally announced how the “double-engine” government—referring to the NDA government in Bihar and also at the Centre—would give a new push to the state’s development now that his party being a part of the NDA.
In a curious development, however, the JD-U has now dropped its long-pending demand saying it was “tired of asking” for this from the Centre. Bihar planning minister and senior JD-U leader Bijendra Yadav said his party had dropped the demand for special status as it was tired of asking for it from the Centre.
“There is a limit to this demand. We have been asking for it for the past seven-eight years. How long we will continue asking for this? We are tired of asking. So, we will now seek for economic package for the state” the minister announced yesterday.
However, the bizarre move has elicited caustic remarks from the opposition. “The JD-U has dropped its special-status-to- Bihar demand midway. Is this a ‘double engine’ with 39 MPs out of (Bihar’s total) 40? I had already said Nitish ji is tired. Now, his party itself is admitting that the party is also tired,” Bihar opposition leader and RJD legislator Tejashwi Yadav said.
He claimed his party had never deviated from its stand in the past and assured to get special status to the state if the Grand Alliance wins similar number of seats in 2024 LS polls.
The Congress accused the JD-U of playing with the “sentiments” of the masses by dropping its demand. “We fail to understand the compulsions of the JD-U which continues to stay with the BJP despite getting repeatedly cornered,” Congress spokesperson Premchandra Mishra said.
He wondered how the JD-U could take decision about this demand withdrawal alone when it was unanimously passed from the both houses of the state legislature. The CPI-ML said the JD-U’s move has exposed the chief minister who can go to any extent to stay in power.
This was the third time in quick succession that the chief minister had to face embarrassment in public for its stand. Prior to this, the chief minister constantly demanded for holding caste census saying this was in national interest and then sought for granting central university status to the Patna University from Prime Minister but both these demands have been rejected too.