1.40pm: Finally comes the warning
While Nitish has been gloriously pandering to the UPA in the way of thanking Chidambaram, he also slips in a clever warning to the government by reminding them that the option to tie up with the Opposition is open to the Bihar CM.
“If the foreign minister and his government’s doesn’t act on what Chidambaram said during his budget speech, we have to take the battle to Delhi. The ones who will come to power in Delhi in 2014, will be the ones who address Bihar’s demands. No one can get ahead and run the country without taking care of Bihar’s needs,” says Nitish.
1.35pm: ‘Look at our road map for agriculture, it’s better than any state’s’
Nitish refers to the agriculture programme of the state and says that the Centre has ignored a programme that would reap a lot of benefits. “President Pranab Mukherjee had gone through our plan and praised it. So many states get aid for agriculture, why should we not get the same too? Several states get such relief, they should too if they are in trouble, but Bihar shouldn’t be ignored,” says Nitish.
1.20pm: Nitish snuggles up to the UPA?
While Nitish Kumar started off by asserting how the government has ignored and rejected his demand for a special status, he didn’t go all out to attack the government. In fact, he thanked Finance Minister P Chidambaram for considering Bihar’s problems.
“However, I am glad that following the economic survey, the finance minister addressed Bihar’s problems. He said that the parameters by which the special status is granted should be reconsidered. In fact, during the budget speech, his hinted that the government will rethink the parameters. I hope he keeps his words and we demand our right to special status be honoured by the Centre,” says Nitish.
1.15pm: PM formed a committee which found us to be backward
Nitish explains how his demand for special status has been rejected on the grounds that the state doesn’t qualify for the same under the present parameters. “We asked them to change the parameters. It is our right to move forward, to develop like the rest of the country,” says Nitish.
He mentions how under the aegis of JD(U) Sharad Yadav the demand for special status gained strength and the Prime Minister formed a committee to consider their request. “The committee found our condition to be backward and poor compared to the rest of the country. But no measures were taken to address that,” says Nitish.
1.10pm: Policies were framed in a way they didn’t benefit Bihar
“The policies that were framed, never helped us. There was no investment, no enterprise. What would children of our state do in such a situation? They had to move out of the state to look for jobs, to look for education.
“We are finally trying to mend things. The Centre should help us achieve our dreams,” says Nitish.
1.05pm: ‘Why have people from Bihar been forced to come and work in Delhi?’
Nitish sets his pitch by referring to Bihar’s past – that of the Nalanda University and colonial glory – and asks why people from Bihar have had to move out of the state to study, to earn a living.
“Nalanda was a respected seat of education for the whole world. What happened after the independence, that we started moving backwards, that we fell out of step with the rest of the country?” asks Nitish.
“Our income per person is way behind the national average. Be it roads, be it electricity, be it progress, we are lagging far behind the rest of the country. In such a situation, shouldn’t the Centre give us a special status? Isn’t it our right that we live and earn in our own state. The right of development and progress is as much ours as the rest of the country’s,” says Nitish.
1.00pm: Rally starts bang on time
In an unusual case of punctuality, Nitish Kumar takes to the stage right on time, at 1pm as the party had announced. To loud, deafening cheers, Kumar addresses the crowd and the party leaders.
12.40pm: ’Don’t want to pressurise the UPA’
Though the crowds have been on a swell at the Nitish Kumar rally, being hailed as a ‘show of strength’, a little while before the Bihar CM addresses it, other JD(U) leaders choose to play safe.
JDU chief Sharad Yadav says, “It is wrong to name it as pressurizing. Bihar was divided vertically and when it was divided at that time the government had said that it will give full support to Bihar. But it never happened. Even PM spoke upon the development of Bihar. This rally has taken place in every state. The rally in Delhi is not a common one. Lakhs of people are coming. It is not portraying of power. It has been named in a wrong manner. The motive of rally is to get justice to the people of Bihar. And talking about alliance, we had an alliance, we still have and will stay.”
The stage is set for Nitish Kumar’s mega rally at the Ram Lila Maidan in Delhi. Touted as a show of strength to bolster the demand of special status for Bihar, the rally is being seen a force tactic to pressurise the UPA government to give in to their demands.
However, there is more political play than is evident, that is going on behind the rally. As Firstpost political editor Sanjay Singh notes: “But there is more to it. With the ruling Congress’s increased softness towards Nitish Kumar and the latter’s antipathy for BJP’s undeclared Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the Janata Dal (U) rally at Ramlila Maidan in the national capital assumes political significance beyond the boundaries of Bihar.”
Could this be a rally to cosy up to the UPA, given that Nitish was one of the few leaders in the opposition parties who praised the UPA’s budget this year?
Sanjay Singh notes: Finance Minister P Chidambaram laudatory references of Nitish Kumar and indications that the Centre was open to reviewing the criteria for special status states as well as the Centre’s move to shift then Bihar Governor Devanand Konwar from Patna, with whom Nitish had a running feud on various issues, is seen as Congress’s big time gestures to the JD(U) leader.
It remains to be seen how Nitish pitches for his demands without rubbing the UPA the wrong way.