"I am rather surprised to hear from an economist like Singh that the amount of the assistance is not being properly utilised in Bihar," Mr Kumar said, adding the state’s role was "just notional" and the funds were being directly given by the Centre to central agencies.

Accusing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of adopting “hit-and-run” tactics and misleading people about central assistance to Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday invited him for an open debate on these issues.

“I fully respect Manmohan Singh as PM and also leader of the country, though it is a different matter that the former treats another person (Sonia Gandhi) as his leader,” Mr Kumar sarcastically remarked while taking a swipe at Dr Singh for his statement on Saturday on central assistance to the state.

The Chief Minister was addressing a press conference jointly with senior BJP leader and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley.

Referring to Dr Singh’s charge that the the NDA government had failed to discharge its responsibilities for utilisation of the assistance worth Rs 1000 crore provided by the Centre since 2004, Chief Minister said, “There is no substance in it.”

Under the Bihar Reorganisation Act which came into force when Jharkhand was carved out of Bihar, the NDA government had devised a formula for providing a special package of Rs 1,000 crore every year since 2002 to compensate the losses incurred by the state with mineral-rich areas going to Jharkhand. Besides, a special cell was created under the Planning Commission when K C Pant was its chairman to monitor utilisation of the assistance, he said.

It was also decided that the central agencies would be tasked with execution of the schemes under the direct control of the Planning Commission following certain objections raised by the erstwhile Rabri Devi regime to the Centre, the Chief Minister said.

“Subsequently, because of the lack of initiative, the release of the assistance piled up,” Mr Kumar said, adding after formation of the NDA government in November 2005, he had relentlessly tried to raise the issue of the release of the assistance and engaging the central agencies for completing the schemes in Bihar.

“I even personally persuaded the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and I express my gratitude that Mr Ahluwalia took the initiative and held a meeting with the central agencies for implementing the schemes with the utilisation of the central assistance,” Mr Kumar said.

“I am rather surprised to hear from an economist like Singh that the amount of the assistance is not being properly utilised in Bihar,” he said, adding the state’s role in the entire episode was “just notional” and the funds were being directly given by the Centre to central agencies for roads and sub-transmission system.

“It is unfortunate that even an economist like Manmohan Singhji is not aware of the fact though he is also chairman of the Planning Commission”, the Chief Minister said.

“Sir, I will like to know from you the veracity of your charge....it is nothing but to mislead the people,” Mr Kumar said and challenged that he was ready for an open debate with the Prime Minister and other Congress leaders on the issue.

“In fact, the Prime Minister and other Congress leaders are engaging in hit-and-run (tactics) and misleading people for politics of vote,” he said and reiterated his charge that whenever the Congress came to power at the Centre it “attacked the federal structure” and the country saw skyrocketing prices of essential commodities.

“Sir, maine apni zindagi mein durupyog nahin sikha hai (I have not learnt misuse (of any thing) in my life,” the Chief Minister said while refuting Prime Minister’s allegation. Mr Kumar also castigated the Prime Minister for placing “distorted” facts about the central assistance of Rs 1000 crore every year since 2004.

Seeking to repudiate the Prime Minister’s charge that the state government was taking credit for the funds provided by the Centre, Kumar asked Singh to explain as to whether the most popular schemes like Mukhyamantri Cycle Yojana and Mukhyamantri Poshak (Uniform) Yojana were implemented in Bihar through “the resources provided by the Centre.”

Similarly, he rubbished the PM’s charge that special schemes for minorities were not being properly utilised, saying the Centre had fully ignored the state’s proposals for madrasas and other minority-oriented schemes.