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Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Interview: PM Narendra Modi has only engaged in tall talk, says Bihar CM Nitish Kumar

Day after Narendra Modi’s visit to Bihar, CM Nitish Kumar speaks to Santosh Singh.

Updated: July 27, 2015 1:06:08 pm
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How would you rate PM Narendra Modi’s visit to Bihar?
The PM was not able to respond to any of the development issues I raised before him. He started with the 14th Finance Commission having given Bihar Rs 3.75 lakh crore as against Rs 1.5 lakh crore by the 13th Finance Commission. But it is not becoming of a PM to tell half-truths. He did not say that Bihar has got a lower percentage share than last time. With scrapping of BRGF (Backward Regions Grant Fund) and an increased state share in several centrally sponsored schemes, we will get Rs 45,000 crore less in central funds in five years. The PM has only engaged in tall talk and not given any scheme.

So, a state-Centre confrontation will mark this poll year?
We don’t want any confrontation but the 14th Finance Commission has given weightage to forest cover and and total geographical area. It is a disadvantage to Bihar, which has a high population density and low forest cover. Though there is a provision to give additional funds on state-specific needs, Bihar’s plea was not heard. All the talks of investment incentive will not attract investors. Only special category status gives direct tax benefits and a tax holiday to an investor.

Is development versus development the template for the elections?
We will tell people how we fulfilled almost all the promises we made, right from infrastructure development to improved electricity supply to the removal of fear. There have been over 95,000 convictions in the last nine-and-a-half years. Only one per cent children are now out of school. Our next goal is to provide education till class 12 to the maximum number of girls. We have taken immunisation to over 60 per cent. We have set up 2.5 lakh self help groups. Can the BJP tell us if it has cited any big development ideas? Their motive is to spread lies and raise slogans.

PM Modi says you have betrayed all and there is something wrong with your sense of DNA of democracy.
Do you know what DNA means? It means blood and lineage. I am the son of a freedom fighter and a son of a freedom fighter automatically imbibes the value of democracy. He has insulted not just me but all the people of Bihar. It is unbecoming of a PM to say so. I have been following PMs’ speeches since Lal Bahadur Shastri days but have not come across the use of such language. Also, he talks too much about my cancelled dinner of 2010. But why did BJP still contest the 2010 assembly election under my leadership, projecting my face? The fact remains that the BJP has no issues.

How do you react to the Centre not giving another term to Amartya Sen as chancellor of Nalanda University?
Nalanda University was our project and the Centre got involved later because of its international standing, even though it was notional and symbolic. Prof Amartya Sen has a stature and pushed the project. But his views are known. It would have been better for the sake of continuity to allow him another term. Prof Sen also withdrew under the circumstances. What happened has shaken confidence. But I am happy that his successor too has been involved with the Nalanda project since the beginning.

Do you see Jitan Ram Manjhi damaging you in the polls?
I have already accepted that making him CM was my big mistake and have apologised to the people. He was nobody and his rise came because of my move. I am not dwelling much on his politics. But the kind of political alignment he has been part of now shows that the party was right in removing him as CM. Tall leaders like Mulayam Singh asked me many times to remove him.

Your take on Lalu Prasad’s remarks that the PM had been creating differences between you and him?
This can be best answered by Laluji, who is known for his wit. But as for Laluji’s tonga drive, I am all for it. We are also introducing low-caste bicycle campaign.

Finally, BJP’s Shatrughan Sinha joining JD(U)?
This is speculation and nobody has seen the future. He did meet me on Saturday night. He is not a Sanghi and has his views across party lines. I respect him as an actor. He has been our pride, the Bihari Babu.

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