On the eve of JD(U)'s rally in the national capital, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar today said it should not be seen as a show of strength ahead of next Lok Sabha elections but was only an "attempt to get the rights" of Bihar which will also benefit other backward states.
"This is not any display of power but an attempt to get our rights. This is why we have termed it Adhikar rally. We have been demanding this for a long time," Kumar told reporters after his arrival in Delhi today.
Taking the argument beyond Bihar, Kumar at the same time added "it is a struggle for the rights of a backward state, which will ultimately benefit other backward states as well".
Responding to a volley of questions regarding political intent of the rally, Kumar said, "the issues you are talking about are non-existent. The fight against backwardness will move ahead."
To a specific query on whether he should have taken the BJP along, the Bihar Chief Minister said, "Everyone is together. These are all confusions. This is a proposal agreed to by everyone. This is being implemented on the resolution passed by the legislative assembly and the legislative council."
Kumar's rally here comes a fortnight after the central government proposed to change the parameters of determining backwardness of states, an announcement immediately welcomed by the Chief Minister, who interpreted it as a positive step towards realising the goal of special status for Bihar.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram's announcement in the budget in this regard and its immediate welcome by Kumar fuelled speculations of JD(U) coming closer to Congress at a time when Narendra Modi's stocks appeared to be rising in the BJP with whom Kumar's antipathy is well-known.
Kumar remained evasive on whether he will go with UPA if it accepted their demands and shot back "what is the basis of this question".
When pointed out that he had earlier expressed similar thoughts in a rally, the Bihar Chief Minister merely said, "whatever I have to say, you will hear that tomorrow. It is not necessary that I say everything now only."
Both Kumar as well JD(U) President Sharad Yadav, who is also the convener of the NDA, termed as "positive development" Chidambaram's announcement on change of the criteria of backwardness for the states as well as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talking about development in Bihar.
The UPA is on the look out for new allies and sees a potential friend in Nitish Kumar in case the BJP projects Narendra Modi as its face for the next Lok Sabha elections.
Fuelling political speculation a day before the rally, party general secretary and its national spokesperson Shivanand Tiwary said that the JD(U) wanted the alliance to continue but at the same time the party was prepared "to contest all the seats with all our strength".
The chief minister, however, downplayed questions on the the "political" message the rally intended to send saying similar rally was organised in Patna in November last year and it was decided to submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister on the issue.
"The Prime Minister then constituted an inter-ministerial group. After going through all the parameters, it said it was not possible under the present circumstances but it (the IMG) had accepted our backwardness.
"In Patna's rally a consensus had emerged from the people to take this battle forward and come to Ramlila Maidan," he said.
The Bihar Chief Minister, however, acknowledged that there have been "certain positive developments".
"We consider them positive. In economic survey, it has been accepted that the parameters for consideration of special status for a state need some change. The finance minister, too, in his budget speech repeated the same thing in his own way.
"This rally's importance increases even more after this as the Centre has finally accepted our demand in principle. Centre has in principle accepted that there is a need to change the parameters," Kumar said.
Kumar also demanded that since the central government has accepted that parameters to determine backwardness of the state need to be changed and be revisited, hence "under these circumstances special status should be granted to Bihar and action for this should be taken at the earliest." He, however dismissed questions on whether the issue held appeal for the middle class saying "this is not a question of middle class, lower middle class or lower class".
"The question is that we have been demanding this for a long time. One argument, which was given against our demand was that along with other Bihar, other states will also ask for it. But we have been saying from the beginning that a standard should be set.
"A formula should be made for the states, which are below the national average.... it is a struggle for the rights of a backward state, which will ultimately benefit other backward states as well..., the basis behind this is clear that all backward states should be developed," Kumar said.
He said that inclusion is not taking place while the talk of equal development is on for many years and the target of inclusive development was decided in last two five year plans.
"This issue is based on development and it cannot be ignored anymore. Finally a paradigm shift had to happen in the policies of the central government. People of the country will not tolerate two types, where one area is developed but the other is not. We have written several letters, given several logics," Kumar said.
He said that when Bihar's demand for a special status was rejected by the Inter-Minsterial group, two reasons were given--- the first was it was not a hill state and the second its population density was not less.
"On this we said that yes it is right but there are other factors...rivers from Nepal cause devastation here. We are victim of backwardness. We are the farthest from the national average, whether it is per capita income or the indices of human development or the basic infrastructure in terms of rail, road and the availability of power," Kumar said.