No severing ties with BJP in Assembly polls: Nitish Kumar

Last Updated 24 January 2010, 04:43 IST

Heading a JD(U)-BJP coalition government that has completed over four years and credited with providing a semblance of governance after 15 years of RJD rule under Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi, he claims that he has turned around Bihar and that now it was a matter of pride to call oneself a 'Bihari'.

"I am not a politician who thinks of ditching an ally. Both the parties enjoy strong bonds of relations and the leaders of the two parties know each other for a long period from being an opposition to attaining the seat of power," Kumar said in an interview.

Unfazed by the setback the ruling alliance suffered in the by-polls to 18 assembly constituencies last year after a spectacular performance in the Lok Sabha polls, the Chief Minister said the alliance was strong as evident from the coordination between the two parties catering to all sections, including minorities. In the run up to the Lok Sabha polls, Kumar had maintained a tantalising silence on what his strategy would be in case of a hung verdict with Congress virtually sending signals calling him a "secular" leader with whom it may not mind doing business.

The Chief Minister has also faced allegations of playing caste politics when he appointed a Mahadalit Commission in the interest of extremely-backward among the dalits.
"If doing justice to mahadalits which they deserve after they remained neglected for decades is being alleged as an attempt to divide the dalits in the name of mahadalits in Bihar, it can be termed as nothing but mental bankruptcy," he said.

"Go and ask the dalits about their happiness because of the state government's initiatives for what they deserve," he said.

He brushes off the defeat in the by-elections where the alliance lost 13 of the 18 seats, saying "we didn't take it seriously. It cannot be seen as a resurgence of any force."
"We are doing our job and it is for the people to assess our work and do justice," the Chief Minister said, rejecting suggestions that his popularity was weaning.

"The state's popularity is more important and the state has now attained an image and the people feel proud of speaking anywhere that they are from Bihar. Bihari kahna ab garv ki baat hai (to call oneself Bihari is a matter of pride now)," Kumar said.Kumar, who recently won 'Business Reformer of the Year' Award by a media group, still fights strong reservations of the industry and businesses in investing in Bihar. He also alleges that the Centre is causing impediments for his government.

"Of course, we have created an ideal environment for business in Bihar, but the Centre is a major impediment in the way of sustained efforts put in by the state government for ensuring industrial development.

"There are two major sectors -- ethanol and power generation -- in which Bihar attracted huge investments from private entrepreneurs but the Centre played a spoilsport," he said.

The Chief Minister charged the Centre with sitting over the Bihar Sugarcane (Purchase and Supply) Regulation Act, 1981 that was unanimously amended and forwarded to the Centre for its assent so that ethanol could directly be produced from sugarcane juice.
"The matter is still pending with the Centre," he said.

Kumar said the State Industrial Promotion Board (SIPB) had cleared several projects from private entrepreneurs to set up their sugar-ethanol producing units with an estimated investment of Rs 38,000 crore, but the Centre's decision to ban manufacturing of ethanol from sugarcane juice had darkened the prospects of these projects.

"I have time and again been raising the issue and written several letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar seeking lifting of the restrictions but nothing has come so far," he said.

In the given situation, "investments will be hard to come by to the state as the Centre has to extend support to the state's development", he said.

(Published 24 January 2010, 04:43 IST)

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