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'I tried to show Bihar can be governed well' (Interview with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar)

'I tried to show Bihar can be governed well' (Interview with Chief Minister Nitish Kumar)

Author: Santosh Singh
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: November 24, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/i-tried-to-show-bihar-can-be-governed-well/545496/0

As the NDA government in Bihar completes four years in office on Tuesday, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, a bit low after the September by poll defeat and Khagaria caste massacre, talks to Santosh Singh on his achievements, challenges, social engineering model, OBC and upper caste ire over Mahadalit politics, ties with the BJP and the strained Centre-state relationship. Excerpts:

Q.: How do you reflect on your four years in office?
A.: I have just tried to show that Bihar can be governed, and governed well. I had inherited a failed state with zero infrastructure, minimal spending capacity and chaos on the law and order front. Now if people like Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Nandan Nilekani have been praising my efforts, I must have done something good. I am satisfied with the huge road projects and drastic improvement in healthcare and education.

Q.: But what went wrong with electricity, the most nagging infrastructural hurdle?
A.: It pains me to answer that the Centre has not been giving us coal linkages to support thermal projects. Now, the Central Water Commission has come out with the directive not to use Ganga basin water for power generation. Is it not a crude joke on us? How can anyone tell us not to use our water? Imagine a state, cursed with floods, is not allowed to use water.

Q.: Will this further keep prospective investors at bay?
A.: Yes. In the past four years, we could get only over Rs 1,000-crore investment, mostly in sugar and agro-processing sectors. For sugar, the Centre says that ethanol cannot be produced directly. Now, the UPA-II is stifling our power generation potentials. This cannot be pleasing to any investor.

Q.: How has the Centre responded to your consistent demand on special category status for Bihar?
A.: Forget response, I have not been even given time by the Prime Minister to take up the matter with him. We have already sent a report on special category status made by the Asian Development Research Institute. Bundelkhand can get special treatment but no one is concerned about Bihar.

Q.: Is different set of coalition rules at Centre and Bihar responsible for the state's neglect?
A.: I do not know. There may be some political constraints or else the Congress-led UPA government does not want me to do well. We have neither got Kosi rehabilitation package (Rs 14,808 crore) nor Rs 500 crore reimbursement, incurred on central government roads.

Q.: Or the Congress wants you to dump NDA and come to UPA fold?
A.: I will not react to it. But I am really forced to the wall and will take these questions before people at opportune time. Our ties with the BJP are strong.

Q.: What has gone wrong with your social engineering model, particularly Mahadalit politics?
A.: Our government has not tampered with the Constitution's classification on caste and classes. I have only given some special facilities to people of marginalised sections. Giving bicycles and school uniforms to Dalits does not mean dividing society as being alleged by Ram Vilas Paswan. And the Mahadalit term, ear-splitter for Paswanji, is not my coinage, several intellectuals used this before.

Q.: Upper castes are afraid that you will bring bataidari law if voted to power again
A.: I know that this canard is being spread by the jobless Laluji. The Land Reforms Commission report has not talked about only bataidari laws. We have accepted proposals such as land consolidation and mutation. I have told it several times that there is no proposal to bring any such rule that can take ownership rights of the landed.

Q.: Do you agree with the Centre's offensive against Naxals?
A.: It is the Centre's prerogative to chalk out ways to tackle Naxalism. As for us, we still believe in taking development to Naxal-hit areas.

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