Getting into poll mode, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar offered a double bonanza to woo voters by announcing 50 per cent quota for OBC, EBC and SC/STs in all government contracts up to Rs 15 lakh and by removing the mandatory 75 per cent attendance cap for students to avail benefits of the state’s uniform and bicycle schemes.
Bihar Cabinet on Tuesday gave its nod to the two important decisions, which were mooted earlier by then Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi. After reversing Manjhi’s decision, Nitish government repackaged the two decisions with some modifications.
Manjhi idea, aimed at denting Nitish’s Mahadalit vote, was pitched as an attempt to prevent affluent contractors from grabbing all government contracts.
But while Manjhi had proposed quota for OBCs in contracts up to Rs 50 lakh, the Nitish Cabinet has capped it at Rs 15 lakh.
The lifting of the 75 per cent attendance cap was also mooted by Manjhi on the rationale that the criteria affected poor students, who often missed school due to family constraints, the most.
Manjhi had said the poor must not be deprived of uniform, bicycle and other benefits just because their attendance was below 75 per cent. However, Nitish camp had given Manjhi’s move a thumbs down back then, claiming that it will have a bad impact on quality of education and will put additional burden on the state exchequer.
Reacting to the Bihar Cabinet’s decisions, Manjhi said that Nitish Kumar was forced to emulate him because of his political compulsions.
Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Assembly, Nand Kishore Yadav, told The Indian Express: “NDA would overwhelm Nitish Kumar with its development agenda. We are hoping for some big announcement from Centre for Bihar soon. We are thinking about long-term impact on the state, not just tokenism.”
Nitish Kumar’s move comes in anticipation of a special package for Bihar likely to be announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon. The PM is expected visit Bihar to inaugurate IIT Patna’s new campus at Bihta. Though the programme was first scheduled for June 30, it was postponed due to non-completion of the work.