Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday dismissed Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s pitch for special status for Bihar saying it is no longer relevant after the constitutional award by the 14th Finance Commission for sharing of tax resources between the Centre and the States.
“Special status ka daur samapt ho chuka hai (the era of special status in over),” Mr. Jaitley told a press conference here.
He said that the 14th Finance Commission had come up with constitutional award for States and fixed a formula for sharing of tax revenues between the Centre and the states.
Referring to Bihar, Mr. Jaitley said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had already announced Rs 1.25 lakh crore special package for the State in addition to Rs 40,000 crore for completion of the ongoing infrastructure projects.
“Over and above that, we want to give more to Bihar,” the Union minister said.
The special development package of Rs 1.65 lakh crore would benefit Bihar a lot in years to come, Mr. Jaitley said and criticised the state government’s negative attitude for describing it as “repackaging of old schemes.” If the special package was repackaging in anyway, the state government should ask the Congress as to why those projects were not implemented, he said.
The Congress government was in power when those projects were conceived for Bihar, but not implemented. Now that the same party was part of the grand alliance, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar should question it about non-implementation of those projects, he said.
Mr. Jaitley, who is widely credited to have worked from behind the scenes to script the NDA’s victory in the past two Assembly polls in Bihar, claimed that the BJP-led coalition was heading towards a landslide victory this time.
He said given his past experience he could see a uniform pattern of massive support in NDA’s favour in all three phases for which polls had been held so far and he had reasons to believe that the same trend would continue in the remaining two phases.
He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popularity and the trust of people of Bihar in his leadership had swung the mood in the BJP-led coalition’s favour at the hustings.
Describing the Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance as a gathering of “depressed” people and parties, the BJP leader claimed that negative perception about Congress, RJD and JD(U) was also working in NDA’s favour.
“It (Grand Alliance) is an alliance of desperation in which Congress is struggling for existence and relevance in Bihar as it is fighting a battle to save itself from extinction,” Mr. Jaitley said.
He claimed RJD was a family group in which one generation could not contest and thus attempts were being made for generational transition at any cost.
With regard to JD(U), the BJP leader described the ruling party and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar as “opportunists” for whom the ongoing Assembly poll was the last shot at the dice for survival.
Mr. Jaitley claimed that Mr. Kumar had been caught in his own trap. “He rode on our strength and sat on the driver’s seat in Bihar before dumping us.
“He then tried to wean away a section of RJD leaders and cadres after Lalu Prasad was convicted in fodder scam apparently believing that the latter will stay in jail, but to his surprise the RJD chief got bail and kept his constituency,” the minister said.
In the meantime, Narendra Modi grew in stature by becoming the Prime Minister. Seeing all his strategies fail one after another, Kumar had no option but to go back to the RJD for survival after ditching the BJP, he said.
“Compounding his woes further, the senior JD(U) leader had to forfeit his socialist background and one who prided in inheriting the legacy of Ram Manohar Lohia, had to solicit support of Congress too for survival,” Mr. Jaitley said.
Mr. Kumar, he said, by joining hands with the RJD and Congress, had to sacrifice development plank and goodwill of the people.
Jaitley said that the youths were directing the outcome of the polls in big way by junking the caste agenda.
“The youths are dictating the outcome of the polls by rising above the caste agenda,” he said while sounding optimistic about the NDA’s prospects.
He said that the overwhelming support of the youths “will help us to provide a stable government in Bihar.”