Where Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar welcomed Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s proposal to form a committee to chart out new criteria for special status, his ally the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) dismissed the move as eyewash.

During his visit to Bihar last week Mr. Chidambaram, accompanied by Mr. Kumar, announced that a committee under the chairmanship of Chief Economic Advisor Raghuram Rajan would work on new criteria for backwardness. Bihar, he said, would qualify for special status under these criteria.

Welcoming the decision, Mr. Kumar said, “If the Centre wishes to define the parameters for backwardness, it should do it by all means. This will make Bihar eligible for special category status and would help attract investment. Determining the criteria for backwardness would also benefit other backward States, who are struggling with their situation.”

However, the BJP took exception to the tagging of Bihar as a backward state. At a press conference in Patna on Monday, BJP national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said, “Bihar is not asking for a label of backwardness. Bihar is asking for special status. By calling it backward, Mr. Chidambaram has insulted Bihar.”

Mr. Hussain said the committee formation was part of the Congress’ delaying tactics as such committee were formed earlier too. Calling for an immediate announcement of special status, he said, “The BJP demands that the special status be declared in May itself. We don’t want a committee. We don’t want this lollipop.”

He said the Congress was a sinking ship and in no position to keep anyone afloat. “If Bihar is lagging behind, the Congress and Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal are responsible for it.”

Mr. Hussain said in the coming Lok Sabha elections, the BJP manifesto will include a focus on eastern states, which have been left behind.

Earlier, general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy also rejected the move to form a committee as unimpressive.

Secularism

To a question on the Shiv Sena’s criticism of Narendra Modi as “pseudo-secular face”, Mr. Hussain said, “Secularism and communalism are not the issues in the country. Corruption and inflation are. Some are deliberately trying to turn these into issues.” He, however, did not take any names.

The BJP would be launching a jail bharo andolan against corruption from May 27 to June 2.