At JD-U rally, Nitish demands special status for Bihar

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    New Delhi, (IANS) In a show of strength of his Janata Dal-United (JD-U) party, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar Sunday brought his political fight to the national capital and demanded special status for his backward state.

    “Change the criteria to give special status to Bihar. We have been told that we do not meet all qualifications for getting special status,” Nitish Kumar urged the central government while addressing a massive crowd of around a lakh at his “Adhikar Rally” at Ramlila Maidan here.

    “Only those who understand the pain of the poor and the backward must rule Delhi,” he said in a veiled attack on the UPA government which also couched his ambition for a national role.

    “Bihar has been neglected. We are not begging for grants, it is our right. If you don’t give it now, you will have to give it in 2014,” Nitish Kumar said.

    He is to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday as well as Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, an official source said.

    Nitish Kumar is to push his demand for special status to his state, which he maintains will not only benefit Bihar but also other backward regions of the country.

    Though it was his second rally over the special status issue, this was the first show of strength by the Janata Dal-United leader in Delhi.

    The rally was a solo JD-U show with no traces of the Bharatiya Janata Party, its ruling coalition partner in Bihar.

    “Do we not have the right to develop, to generate employment in Bihar? We have the right to development, we have been ignored,” Nitish Kumar said, playing on regional identity.

    He demanded the criteria for giving special status to states should be changed so that Bihar can develop.

    “If we get special status, we can also become one of the developed states,” he said.

    Reacting to the chief minister’s claim of Bihar being neglected, the Congress said the central government “goes out of the way” to support all backward states and Bihar is not the only one.

    “There are so many states that are backward. Bihar is not the only backward state, there are a number of states that are more backward,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi told IANS.

    “The government of India goes out of the way to support all backward states,” he added.

    The mammoth gathering at the rally was due to the hard work of over 100 legislators and local leaders of the JD-U from Bihar who had been camping in Delhi and its neighbouring areas for nearly a month to mobilise people.

    “Leaders stayed for more than a month. They interacted with the families from Bihar living here and told them the importance of the demand,” a JD-U volunteer told IANS.

    The rally saw thousands of buses and four-wheelers as well as hundreds of auto-rickshaws and cycle-rickshaws parked near the venue. The vehicles were used to ferry the crowd and many of the drivers hailing from the state also joined in the rally.