Modi faces friendly fire over special category status

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairs the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of NITI Aayog, in New Delhi, Saturday, June 15, 2019. Also seen are Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and NITI Aayog Vice-Chairperson Rajiv Kumar. PIB/PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday faced some friendly fire at the Niti Ayog meeting with Chief Ministers of Bihar, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh making a strong pitch for special category status for their respective states.

After adopting the recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission in 2014, the Centre had scrapped the special category status accorded to states, but the issue has continues to be a political flashpoint.

While Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is part of the ruling NDA, the BJD and the YSRCP – the political parties ruling Odisha and Andra Pradesh are considered friendly to the BJP.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar made the demand for a special category status arguing that his state had achieved higher growth rate but the per capita income continued to remain below the national average.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y S Jaganmohan Reddy wanted the Centre to grant special category status to the debt-ridden state.

He also noted that the then-prime minister Manmohan Singh had made the promise of special category status on the floor of the Rajya Sabha in 2014. He also reminded Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the BJP had given a similar assurance in its manifesto for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

Reddy's predecessor N Chandrababu Naidu, then a BJP ally, had walked out of the NDA in March last year over the Modi government's refusal to grant special category status to Andhra Pradesh.

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik wanted special category status for the state which often faces the brunt of natural calamities. The coastal state faced widespread destruction last month as it was hit by cyclone Fani.

Patnaik also wanted the Centre to declare states frequently hit by natural calamities as 'Special Focus States' as an interim measure.

“Special Focus States should be granted benefits of special category states for a specific period,” Patnaik said.

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