Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who is trying to forge “opposition unity” after walking out of the NDA, on Thursday promised special category status, which he has been demanding for his state, to “all backward states”. Kumar, the JD(U)’s de facto leader who had snapped ties with the BJP last month accusing it of trying to break his party, made the averment here in reply to a query from journalists on the sidelines of a function.
“If we get a chance to form the next government at the Centre, all backward states will get special category status. There is no reason why it cannot be done,” said Kumar, who is now ruling the state as part of a seven-party coalition that comprises RJD, Congress and the Left. Notably, Kumar has been demanding special status for Bihar, citing loss of revenue and mineral wealth upon creation of Jharkhand, for nearly two decades. He has on many occasions shown the willingness to “support any government at the Centre” that fulfilled the demand.
The JD(U) leader, who last week met many key political figures opposed to the BJP in Delhi, also took a jibe at his former ally for weaning away legislators belonging to the Congress in Goa. “It is well known who try to wean away people from other parties and what means are employed,” he said in reply to a query about developments in the western coastal state, without explicitly referring to money changing hands.
Reiterating that his long alliance with the BJP had been a “mistake”, Kumar claimed that his siding with the opposition camp had left the saffron party jittery causing its leaders to “speak irresponsibly” against him. He took a dig at his former deputy Sushil Kumar Modi for getting “sidelined despite sharing the surname with the prime minister” and lambasted Union minister Giriraj Singh for provocative remarks about the freak shooting incident at the latter’s Lok Sabha constituency Begusarai.
“These people seem hopeful of getting something from their (BJP’s) top leadership as reward for launching a tirade against me. They are welcome to do so,” remarked Kumar, who is longest serving Chief Minister of Bihar. The CM said he was getting “regular updates” with regard to the sensational incident at Begusarai, in which one person was killed and many were injured, and expressed confidence that the guilty will soon be identified and nabbed.
Kumar, on whom Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao had showered praise during a visit here recently for dumping the BJP, was also asked about similar words of appreciation coming from West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee. The Bihar chief minister, who recently disclosed that he has spoken to the TMC chief over phone, responded just with a smile and folded hands.
Widely seen as a “secular alternative” who could challenge the charismatic Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Kumar has been ruling himself out as a “claimant to the top post”. Nonetheless, speculations remain about his being one of the most acceptable faces in the event of the next Lok Sabha polls throwing up a hung House.