Battle for Bihar hots up: PM Modi promises Rs 1.25 lakh special package


Modi Arrah

Moving on expected lines, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a special package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore for the state of Bihar, which goes to polls later this year. While the schedule hasn’t been announced yet, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaid, said the elections would be held before November 29, when the tenure of the present assembly expires.

The state has already been in election mode since early 2015 with a tight contest expected between Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal (U) led coalition comprising other parties such as Rashtriya Janata Dal and Congress versus Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party at the centre. Prime Minister Modi is at the forefront of the campaign.

Bihar is one of the key swing states of India during the general elections, with a sizeable representation of 40 members in national Parliament. In the 2014 general elections, the BJP won 32 out of the 40 seats in Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament), a verdict that went against the party of the incumbent chief minister.

At a government function in Arrah on August 18, PM Modi said to thunderous applause and cheers, “I announce a Rs 1.25 lakh crore package for Bihar … this will change the fate of the state.” He also announced an additional Rs 40,000 crore for the existing projects. He said he hadn’t made the announcement earlier as the monsoon session of Parliament was still in progress.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has decided on a wait and watch approach. “I am waiting to see whether the special package will have new projects or merely a repackaging of the old ones,” he said. Accusing the Centre of violating the spirit of cooperative federalism, something that PM Modi had championed in the run up to the 2014 elections, Mr Kumar said, It is a clear-cut violation of cooperative federalism that the state government has been kept in the dark, while BJP leaders are making statements about the PM’s special package for the state.” Mr Kumar had been vocal in his demand for a special category status for the state even before the 2014 elections. Asking the Centre to help develop the poor state has been one of Mr Kumar’s key poll promises. This announcement by the prime minister is expected to deny Mr Kumar the credit for getting Central funds from the state.

The contest is expected to get heated further as the state gets closer to the elections, with a ruling coalition in the state taking on the ruling party at the centre.