Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday obliquely countered his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi’s development plank and declared that his State would present the “real model” of progress that takes everybody along. He also indicated that his support would be crucial for formation of the next government at the Centre.

Mr. Kumar sought a “special status” for Bihar, which was a promise when the State lost a lot of resources to Jharkhand which was carved out of it. “We are not here to beg. Special status is our right and the Centre must give it, and give it to all States that are backward. Only those who feel for such States will rule at the Centre after 2014 [general elections],” he said.

The Chief Minister was addressing a rally on Ramlila Grounds here — dubbed as a show of strength by the Janata Dal (United), which shares power with the BJP in the State.

The country’s economic growth rate had fallen because development was not all around and equitable. “You cannot sustain GDP growth rate on the basis of a few developed States. We want to remove this divide between India and Bharat.”

Looking visibly pleased at the huge crowd, he said: “This is only a trailer and it shows that Biharis are ready to rule Delhi in 2014.”

Significantly, the State unit of the BJP was conspicuous by its absence. The official explanation was that seeking a “special status” was the JD(U)’s election promise in 2006 when the party returned to power in Bihar. Sharing the dais with Mr. Kumar was JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, who is also the convener of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. Among others present were State president Vashisht Narain Singh, several Ministers, MPs and MLAs.

The Chief Minister said the people of Bihar who migrated in large numbers in search of employment due to unfavourable economic policies and lack of industries used to face humiliation. Now the situation had changed. “The reason for the change in perception is because once “bemaro” Bihar is now on the path of progress and with a helping hand from the Centre, could present the real model for development that is equitable and sustainable.”

Welcoming the Centre’s decision to re-visit the parameters determining backwardness of a State as announced by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram in his budget speech, Mr. Kumar said it was a “positive step” towards realising the goal of a “special status” for Bihar which would bring in its wake financial assistance and other concessions to the State.

Mr. Kumar’s praise of the UPA government fuelled speculation about the JD(U) coming closer to the Congress when Mr. Modi is being projected by a section of the BJP as the prime ministerial candidate in the next Lok Sabha elections.