New Delhi: The RJD on Friday ridiculed Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for praising Finance Minister P Chidambaram for "revisiting the criteria for special status during his budget speech" and said there was no such proposal.
In a letter to Kumar, senior RJD leader Raghuvansh Prasad Singh said, "You have praised the Union budget for the mention of a proposal to change yardsticks for determining the development of states and a reference to Nalanda University. A serious look at the proposal betrays that you are mistaken."
He said the budget makes no reference to allotting any fund for Nalanda University and refers only to Centre`s commitment to educational excellence for it.
"There is a mention of new yardsticks for determining backwardness of a state while increasing the Centre`s aid for backward areas. It`s not about changing the yardsticks for granting special status to any state," Singh said.
The RJD leader also attached with the letter a reply by the Ministry of Planning in Lok Sabha on February 27 which said, "At present there is no proposal to review the norms relating to special category status to Bihar."
A number of MPs including Singh and some others from parties including BJP and JD-U had then posed the question whether there was a proposal to review the norms for providing special status to states.
Chidambaram`s remarks yesterday and Kumar welcoming them fuelled speculation about Congress and JD-U getting closer.
"It seems there is some plan like this. Otherwise why should Nitish Kumar be so elated over a proposal, which even does not exist," Raghuvansh Singh said when asked whether he sees some possibility of Congress-JDU joining hands in future.
Kumar, had, however, ruled out a political meaning of his lavish praise yesterday itself saying no such conjecture should be made.
In his budget speech, Chidambaram had yesterday announced allocation of a sum of Rs 11,500 crore for Backwards Regions Grant Fund (BRGF), which he described as a "vital source of gap funding" besides another sum of Rs 1000 crore for Left- wing extremism affected areas.
"BRGF will include a state component for Bihar, the Bundelkand region, West Bengal, the KBK districts of Odisha and the 82 districts under the Integrated Action Plan. The present criteria for determining backwardness are based on terrain, density of population and length of international borders.
"It may be more relevant to use a measure like the distance of the state from the national average under criteria such as per capita income, literacy and other human development indicators. I propose to evolve new criteria and reflect them in future planning and devolution of funds," he had said.
Welcoming the announcement, Kumar said in Patna it was a `victory in-principle` for Bihar in view of its consistent demand for grant of such a status.
The announcement came at a time when the UPA is on the lookout for new allies and sees a potential friend in Nitish Kumar in case the BJP projects Narendra Modi as its face for the next Lok Sabha elections.
Kumar`s party had plans to address a rally in New Delhi on March 17 on the issue. Bihar government has been consistent in its demand for changing the criteria for determining backwardness of a state so that it could get special status.
"We have been demanding review of the criteria for special status to the states for a long time and framing of new criterion for grant of such a status to backward states like Bihar... I am glad that Chidambaram has referred to revisiting criteria for special status during his budget speech," Kumar had said.