Bihar has always had a good growth rate. Nitish’s tie-up with BJP will not make much difference

Bihar had registered fast growth rates when the UPA Government was in power at the Centre. Claims that Bihar would now develop faster with BJP in power at Centre and the state are spurious

PTI Photo
PTI Photo

Soroor Ahmed

After becoming chief minister (CM) and deputy CM, Nitish Kumar and Sushil Kumar Modi (SuMo) respectively claimed that Bihar would be on the path of rapid development as it is for the first time in 27 years, that is since 1990, that there would be governments of the same party or alliance at both Centre and the state.

But for almost four years (46 months to be precise), Lalu-Rabri raj of 15 years had five PMs who were not really hostile to the state government . They were VP Singh, Chandrashekar (he had the backing of Congress then), HD Deve Gowda, IK Gujral and Manmohan Singh. There were also 10 months of President’s Rule in 1999 and 2005.

In fact, Gujral was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Bihar. What is more important is that Bihar registered the fastest GDP growth––if this is the only yardstick for measuring development––in the period between the financial year 2004-05 and 2013-14. On an average, 11 per cent GDP growth per annum was registered during this period. At one point of time, it even touched the figure of 16 per cent.

What the media also often ignores is that the phenomenon of this fast growth rate started 20 months before Nitish took over on November 24, 2005.

In eight and a half years out of this 10-year period, the Centre and the state had governments belonging to different parties. But Bihar had never progressed better. But the credit for the growth rate of any region or state couldn’t be of the state government alone, as Nitish and the media would often claim. The generosity shown by the Manmohan Singh government, the amount of money Bihar received from Backward Regions Grant Fund (BGRF), and massive projects brought especially in Railways and rural development in Bihar by Lalu Prasad Yadav and rural development minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh also contributed to the growth of Bihar which was essentially construction driven.

No doubt, Nitish Kumar and Ram Vilas Paswan also brought in various projects in Railways, Power and Telecommunication sectors when they were Union ministers in the previous governments.

In contrast, Bihar performed poorly in the 26-year period between 1964 and 1990, when barring a couple of years in the late 1960s, the governments at the Centre and the state were of the same party/alliance.

Undoubtedly, there is some truth in the charge of step-motherly treatment by Centre, if the government in the state is of different party or alliance. For example, in 2000, on the eve of creation of Jharkhand, the Bihar Assembly unanimously passed a resolution seeking a compensation package of Rs 1.79 lakh crore. Though BJP and JD(U) MLAs, too, supported this resolution, the Vajpayee government, in which Nitish and others were ministers, never accepted the demand for the package.

Similarly, Prime Minister Modi had, during the campaign for 2015 Assembly election, announced a special economic package of Rs 1.25 lakh crore for Bihar. Twenty months later, not a single paisa has arrived.

If this special package comes now, it would confirm the political motive behind such an exercise.

The special economic package does not require any constitutional amendment as the demand for Special Category Status, which Nitish Kumar has repeatedly been demanding.

Economists attribute the slow pace of industrialisation of the mineral-rich eastern India in the post-Independence era to the adoption of the policy of freight equalisation by the Centre.

As the minerals meant for the non-mineral rich states were subsidised, industries grew in those parts of western, southern and northern India which had no mines or which were close to the ports.

It was left to non-Congress CMs like Lalu Prasad and others of eastern states to fight for the abolition of freight equalisation policy by Centre in early 1990s.

Had the same party government continued at the Centre and in eastern states for more years, the situation would still not have changed much.

If one buys the argument of Nitish Kumar and SuMo, Gujarat under Narendra Modi would not have developed because, during most of these years, the Congress was ruling at the Centre. In fact, Gujarat is now in the news for all the wrong reasons––barring development––when the same party government is both at the Centre and the state.

In the past, the central government might have been accused of step-motherly treatment but neither Gujarat nor Bihar could ever blame the Manmohan Singh government for it. But, by claiming that Bihar would develop much faster than in the past as the BJP is in power in the state as well as the Centre, Nitish Kumar is perhaps indulging more in rhetoric than anything else.

What he needs to be reminded is that in those early years of his tenure as CM, when Bihar had been witnessing on an average 11 per cent growth rate, neighbouring Jharkhand––where the government was changing virtually every year and where BJP was in power ––also registered growth rates between eight and 10 per cent.

Almost similar was the achievement of UP.

Nationally, too, the growth rate was much faster then. Now, in the post-demonetisation months, when it has registered a fall, it would be a challenging job to cross the 16 per cent growth as the state once had witnessed.

Mind it, even in the heydays of Nitish’s first term, the industrial and agricultural sectors did not see any big jump and excise duties were the main revenue earner in pre-prohibition Bihar.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines

Published: 31 Jul 2017, 1:31 PM