Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his party, the Janata Dal (United), received a shot in the arm on Tuesday with 15th Finance Commission chairperson N K Singh stating that the commission is “sympathetically” considering Bihar’s long-pending demand for special category status, an issue close to Nitish’s heart.
Singh is leading a team of the Commission to the state to understand and assess its case for special status.
The team has already met Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Sushil Kumar Modi, and is scheduled to meet the Chief Minister on Wednesday.
The five-member team began a four-day trip to Bihar on Monday.
The visit assumes significance, as Nitish often raises the demand for special category status, often seen as the Chief Minister’s, and his party’s, way of putting pressure on alliance partner BJP.
On Tuesday, asked by the media about the special category status demand, N K Singh, who was in Rajgir, said, “We will consider Bihar’s demands sympathetically.”
Singh told The Indian Express: “Although considering the special category status demand was not in the Finance Commission’s ambit, the Commission will take a sympathetic view of the demand of grants by the state government.
Asked whether Bihar can be granted the status, he said even earlier the Finance Commission did not deal with the issue of special category status. “We have not been asked to make any recommendation on special status. As for any special package or special concession, any revenue deficit grant can be discussed within the given framework”.
On Monday, Assembly Speaker Vijay Kumar Choudhary had reiterated the state’s case for “special consideration”.
Incidentally, N K Singh, then a JD(U) MP, had taken up Bihar’s demand for special category status with then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
JD(U) national spokesperson K C Tyagi told The Indian Express: “N K Singh knows the ins and outs of the issue. He had taken up our case as our then colleague. We still maintain that any special package will not be sufficient. We stick to our demand of special category status, as only that can ensure sufficient grants and waivers to ensure all-round growth of Bihar. Now that Singh is in the thick of things at the Finance Commission, we are very hopeful this time.”
Finance Commission spokesperson Anshuman Mishra told The Indian Express: “The team has been meeting officials and the people concerned. The chairman is due to meet the CM shortly. Assembly Speaker Choudhary had spoken about special consideration. The chairman has said the Commission will consider the state’s demands sympathetically.”