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Special status for Bihar, model of development to be key issues in coming elections: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar
Demand for a special status from the Centre and the model of governance being pursued by Bihar that encompasses key social indicators like education, health and basic infrastructure like road will be made an issue in the coming elections, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said at an event orgainsed industry body Assocham at New Delhi today.

“For us model of development is an election issue... (also) demand for special status for the state would be an issue for elections,” he said while addressing the Assocham Conclave on Bihar: “ Kal, Aaj Aur Kal” (Bihar of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” here at New Delhi.

Accompanied by his Cabinet colleagues Renu Kumari Kushwaha and Prashant Shahi and his party’s Rajya Sabha MP N K Singh,  Nitish Kumar said the demand from his state for a special status had not only backing of the people of Bihar but also from an expert committee of the Centre under the chairmanship of present Governor Dr Raghuram Rajan.

“Although we were not completely satisfied with the Raghuram Rajan report and our members gave a dissent note, still there was enough in the report for enabling a special dispensation for Bihar...However, after showing some positive signs; it has been kept in the cold storage”, said Chief Minister of Bihar.

He said his party– JD(U) has been building a public pressure by holding several rallies in Patna and Delhi for its demand from the Centre, and it would continue to do so. The special status would enable the state to attract more investment because of tax concessions and also because the mandatory share of the state in the Central schemes would be reduced considerably leaving it with more resources.

Without naming his political rivals, the Chief Minister said, in an environment of elections, the public discourse is being changed with people being taken on the garden path and are being fed with pipe-dreams. “It is being projected as if everything from our border problems with China, Pakistan and Bangladesh to growth, there would be a magic wand which will solve the issues all over...for us it is not only the growth but the model of growth...which is going to be an election issue”, added Nitish Kumar.

Again without naming anyone, he talked about political atmosphere in Bihar where “people are behaving as they have returned from jail for fighting a freedom movement”, said Kumar.

The Bihar Chief Minister said the national growth is seeing wild fluctuations because it is only the growth of some developed states which determine the country’s overall growth and not from the less developed states.

He said while national growth was less than five per cent, economic expansion in his state was over 14 per cent in the last fiscal, the highest in the country. ” Bihar of today is not that of yesterday (before 2005) when people used to stay indoors at the sun-set because of fear...Today, Bihar is changing cities like Patna are humming with activities at night. People of Bihar are not ridiculed but respected unlike in the past.”

He said states should be allowed to devise their own schemes of development since each state has a “unique strength and the scheme in one state cannot be replicated in another...But the Centre wants to do that”.

Elaborating on his development schemes, he said all state roads have been built into excellent ways and as many as 12,000 bridges have been built in the last 8-9 years...” It is only the national highways under the Centre, which would have potholes not the state ways. Even the national highways were repaired by spending Rs 1,000 crore from the state funds...The money is yet to be recovered which we will do anyway…it is a question of wheel of time”.

He said several mega bridge projects across major rivers like Ganga and Kosi are being built and more are being planned-some under Public Private Partnership (PPP) and some under the state government.

Attracting captains of the industry for investment in the state, Kumar advised them just “to focus on investment in Bihar and the state would offer them the best of facilities”.

He said tremendous progress has been made in the area of power generation....“the power availability has been doubled from 1200 MW to 2300 MW in the last one year. This will be increased to at least 4,000 MW in the next two years”. More than Rs 28,000 crore worth of power projects will be implemented in the 12th Plan.

In his welcome speech, Assocham President Rana Kapoor said with the state being power sufficient by 2015, investment is expected to leapfrog. He sought from the Chief Minister special schemes for the small and medium enterprises by developing clusters and common facilities. He also said the state has a huge potential for tourism development, particularly for the Budhist tourism.

In his presentation, N K Singh said the state has a sense of grievance over denial of being granted the special status. Even so, the state is leading the country by achieving the highest growth rate.

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