In a bid to mount pressure on the Centre to accede to his demand for special status for Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar galvanised the JD(U) cadre and staged a protest at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan on Sunday.
Mr. Kumar called for the dawn-to-dusk shutdown and asked people to strike work to draw attention to the special status demand, a key poll plank of the party in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Launching his day-long satyagraha, Mr. Kumar said, “We have come here to stage a satyagraha. We resolve that we will rest only after Bihar gets the status. Bihar has right to development.”
He accused the Centre of disregarding Bihar’s long-standing demand and deciding to confer the status on Seemandhra, without a demand or eligibility.
“This means the Union government pays no attention to us. The issue is now linked to Bihar’s pride and self respect. No parameters were considered for Seemandhra. We cannot tolerate this discriminatory approach. As Chief Minister it was my duty to voice the sentiment of the people. We are not fighting for power; we are fighting for Bihar’s right.”
He accused the BJP of not pushing for Bihar’s demand in Parliament when the decision on Seemandhra was taken.
Mr. Kumar said Bihar was posting a high growth rate, but to match the level of development in other States, it would take 25 years. “We want to cover that ground within five to seven years.”
With the special status category, Bihar’s contribution to Central schemes would be reduced to 10 per cent, increasing the Union government’s share to 90 per cent instead of the current 70 per cent.
“This would increase the capacity of the State treasury and help us introduce new development schemes.” The status would also provide tax rebate for investors to set up industry, which is “next to nil” in Bihar. Filmmaker Prakash Jha, who participated in the protest, declared to make a movie on Bihar’s demand.
Theatrics, says Lalu
Meanwhile, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad dubbed Mr. Kumar’s protest ‘theatrics.’
“He cleverly called a bandh on a Sunday, when schools, colleges, government offices are shut anyway. He started celebrations after the Raghuram Rajan Committee report as if Bihar was given the special status category. That report is for seven States and it talks of a special package. Mr. Kumar should stop his theatrics,” Mr. Prasad said.