'Don't politicise special status'

Barely ten days after Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar organised a successful rally in Delhi demanding “special status to Bihar”, the Centre has given broad indications that it will shortly change the criteria for evaluating the state’s claim to be “backward”.

The move comes exactly a month after P Chidambaram proposed in the Union Budget to “evolve new criteria for determining the backwardness of the states and awarding ‘special category’ status”.

In political parlance, the move is seen as one last-ditched attempt by the Congress-led UPA government to create fissures within the NDA and wean away the JD (U) — one of the oldest allies of the BJP — into its fold.

However, Nitish on Tuesday made it clear that the move should not be given a political colour as “we are not begging, it’s our right to seek special status to Bihar”.

But the grapevine was agog with numerous theories of new political realignments because Nitish last year had publicly said he would extend support to any government at the Centre which would accede to his demand for special status. Besides, last week, he had asserted that “Kaun jane bhavishya ke garbh mein kya hai (Who knows what will happen in future), giving broad indications that he was not averse to joining hands with those who would back him (or his demands).

After the recent political developments where one alliance partner after another started deserting the UPA, the Congress mandarins have been reportedly systematically working towards bringing Nitish under the UPA umbrella. For the record, the JD(U) has 20 members in the LS, and may prove handy for a government which commands a wafer-thin majority.

The JD(U) strongman’s antipathy for BJP’s possible prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has made the Congress manager’s job relatively easier.

No wonder, Manmohan Singh gave his nod for coal linkage to thermal plant at Barauni in Bihar, sanctioned two central universities to the state, allowed opening up a branch of Aligarh Muslim University at Kishanganj, made substantial hike in Bihar’s Annual Plan allocation and okayed several thousands crores for gram sadak yojna (rural road projects).

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