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Special status to Bihar: Union Cabinet to decide today

Special status to Bihar: Union Cabinet to decide today

New Delhi: With the BJP-JD-U war over Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi intensifying, the ruling Congress government at the Centre is trying hard to woo Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, with the Union Cabinet on Thursday considering his demand for granting special status to his state.

Among other issues, the Cabinet will also examine changes to the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act that also provide for confiscation of property if a case of graft is established.

Tougher provisions to cover “intermediaries” under the anti-corruption law but a buffer for retired officials who can be prosecuted only after investigating agencies get requisite sanctions will also be considered by the Union Cabinet today.

Doubling special support to Bihar to Rs 12,000 crore under the remaining four years of the 12th Plan, the judicial commission Bill and 8% dearness allowance (DA) for government employees are also on the Cabinet agenda.

The Bihar package under the Backward Region Grant Fund (BRGF) is a substantial mark up from Rs 5,500 crore during the previous Plan period and comes at a time when Congress is eyeing Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar to shore up support in Parliament.

The recent troubles in NDA over Modi’s likely chances of becoming the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 polls, with Janata Dal (U) and BJP on the verge of a split, has provided the ruling coalition an opportunity to woo the Bihar CM given UPA’s depleted numbers following the exit of DMK.

Bihar had earlier received special support of Rs 1,000 crore a year since Jharkhand was carved out of it in 2000. The grant was to be discontinued, but Kumar managed to keep it going in the 11th five-year plan. In comparison, Odisha has been given Rs 1,250 crore.

Sources said Bihar would get more funds under a reworked BRGF as the Centre is tweaking norms to measure backwardness on parameters such as illiteracy, unemployment, access to electricity and education using Census 2011.

It will be interesting to see if the move will please Kumar as the funds expected to be allocated are far less than his demand of Rs 20,000 crore, while it would be highest allocation for any state under BRGF.

In another development, BJP chief Rajnath Singh will meet the state unit leaders of Bihar today to resolve their growing differences with the leaders of ally JD-U over the issue of projecting Modi as the BJP candidate for the prime minister’s post.

Interestingly, it was also reported that former BJP chief Nitin Gadkari had once assured Kumar that Modi will never become the party’s candidate for the top post, something which he categorically denied today.

 

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