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Special status for Bihar

Nitish's rallying cry

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The Adhikar rally in Delhi this Sunday is an attempt by Nitish-led JD (U) to bolster the idea of Bihari sub-nationalism.

JJD (U) chief Vashisht Narayan Singh has been camping in Delhi for over a fortnight to supervise the preparations for his party's ambitious rally this Sunday. Adhikar rally, Part II rides on the success of the Patna march held in November last year to focus national attention on Bihar. "Biharis living anywhere in the country and abroad are whole heartedly supporting this demand, " says Singh. "No political party ever organised rally in Delhi on a state-centric demand. "

The rally is likely to further arouse the sentiment of Bihari sub-nationalism among those who live in the state and the outside it. By demanding special status for Bihar, Nitish is trying to forge a strong link between his political agenda and the future and pride of its people. Social scientist and economist Shaibal Gupta, says that the agenda of fighting for the special status will help build a "coalition of extreme".
UPA II's sympathy for Bihar's demand has kindled hope not only for Bihar but other backward states too. Playing the politics of development, Nitish, has given a new dimension to the demand for social development. He had asked all backward states lagging behind in various human development indices to join the special status chorus. "Time has come that all such states to come together and force the government in Delhi to frame policies keeping in their problems in mind, " says Nitish's close aide Sanjay Jha, who is busy mobilizing support for Delhi rally and has also publicized it on social media.
P Chidambaram almost conceded Bihar's demand and in his Budget speech promised suitable changes in the criteria for measuring backwardness. The JD(U) called this development a victory and one step forward in achieving the goal. "Special status is the demand of each Bihari, living in the state or anywhere, and the Centre cannot ignore the popular public demand for long, " said Nitish.

JD(U) leaders though deny that there is politics behind this demand. But the Opposition disagrees. "It is a purely politically motivated move of Nitish to divert public attention from the state's problems and the government's failure to fulfill its promises, " said RJD supremo Lalu Prasad, currently busy drumming up support for his Parivartan (change) rally to be held in Patna on May 15.

JD(U) has clearly decided to make special status a poll plank in 2014. What is interesting is that the party has not involved any other party - not even its ally BJP - in this campaign. RJP is clearly piqued at this attempt to corner all credit for the demand. RJD leader Abdul Bari Siddiqui said that on April 4, 2006 a resolution demanding special category status to Bihar had been passed by the state assembly unanimously and that it would have been more creditable if all parties had been involved in raising the from a common public forum.

JD (U)'s Ranjan Prasad Yadav says Bihar earned its image as a violent, anarchic and corrupt state after 1990. He accused Lalu for presiding over a 'lawless' state and raising an army of jobless youth for almost 15 years. "In those years Biharis in other parts of the country were ashamed of disclosing their identity. Now the situation is the reverse, others view Biharis with envy, " said Yadav.

If the UPA government accords special status to Bihar, it will certainly enhance Nitish's political stature in the state and across the country. But the JD(U) leadership is still not clear how the government is going to keep its promise of considering the Bihar case. "We are under impression that the PM will constitute a committee to revisit the criteria and the panel will take its own time, " says a senior minister. There is also the fear that in the year preceding the general election, the Congress may not very generous with sharing credit with Nitish for any radical reform.

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