State's role “merely notional” as funds are directly allotted by Central agencies

Criticising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's statement on the Bihar government's under-utilisation of Central funds to the tune of Rs. 6,000 crore, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said Central aid was not any “special package” given by the Congress party to States.

Emphasising mutual amity between the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by holding a joint press conference with leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, Mr. Kumar said the decision to grant an amount of Rs. 1000 crore to Bihar had been taken during the tenure of the then NDA government in 2002 under the aegis of the Bihar Reorganization Bill with the aim of compensating the State after the formation of Jharkhand in November 2000.

“After the bifurcation, our internal resources were under great strain. Hence, under the deputy chairmanship of Mr. K.C. Pant, it was decided to grant this amount to Bihar under the Bihar Reorganization Act, 2000. I would request Dr. Singh to see it,” said Mr. Kumar.

On Saturday, while campaigning for the Congress in Araria's Narpatganj constituency, Dr. Singh had alleged that the UPA government had been annually giving a “special packet” to the tune of Rs. 1000 crore to Bihar for six years since 2004, which had been grossly unutilised.

Dr. Singh had further said that the Bihar government was deceiving its people by not fulfilling its responsibilities in health, education and agriculture.

Mr. Kumar said that he found it surprising that an economist like him should discover that the aid amount was not being properly utilised in Bihar since the State's role was “merely notional” here and that the funds were being “directly allotted by Central agencies” for schemes like improving the State's highways, the sub-transmission system, and restoration of the East Gandak canal.

“All the facts are in front of the public. So, Sir I would like to know from you just how precise your allegations are,” said the Chief Minister, while appreciating Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia's initiative to hold a meeting with various central agencies for implementing schemes which required central aid.

Mr. Kumar said that following certain objections raised by the erstwhile Rabri Devi government, it had been also decided that the central agencies would be saddled with the execution of schemes under the direct control of the Planning Commission.

He said that after formation of the NDA government in November 2005, he had knocked on many doors to try and raise the matter of the release of Central aid for completing the schemes in Bihar.

Remarking that the Congress should stop tooting about pioneering schemes like NREGA, Mr. Kumar asked Dr. Singh to explain whether the most popular schemes in the State like the Mukhyamantri Cycle Yojana and Mukhyamantri Poshakh (Uniform) Yojana were being executed through “the resources provided by the Centre.”

Mr. Jaitley criticised the Congress for adopting “hit-and- run” tactics and stated that the money from the Centre given to States was not the property of the Congress but that of the Indian people under the federal structure.

Mr. Kumar said there was no concept of a joint rally as such in the State and that the chief purpose of campaigning separately was to save time and hold as many meetings

Accusing the Congress of basing its campaign on false allegations, Mr. Kumar said the party was in cahoots with the RJD.

“It was the Congress that had bailed out the RJD government in 1997 when the latter was losing ground. It had similarly supported them in 2000 but Lalu's track record is in front of the people,” he said.

Mr. Jaitley said the NDA's poll campaign was a positive one based on the five years of development brought about by the alliance's leaders in Bihar.