PATNA: It seems the wedding in the capital was just an excuse. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s recent three-day visit to Delhi—his first after winning the Assembly poll—may have been an attempt to test the political waters in Delhi, rather than just attend the marriage ceremony of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s daughter.
On the following morning, Nitish called on PM Narendra Modi at his office in Parliament. He later told the media that Janata Dal (United) has been supporting the GST since the UPA days. This unexpected political commitment from a friend-turned-foe comes at a crucial juncture when the BJP is pulling out all the stops to have the bill passed in Parliament.
Nitish, who made a spectacular comeback in Bihar, needs a strong helping hand from his political bête noir PM Modi as the CM had promised the moon to his voters, especially women and youth, in the run up to the Assembly election.
Nitish had announced his “seven determinations (saat nischay)” during the poll campaign to counter Modi’s special package of `1.25 lakh crore along with another `40,000 crore for projects already announced. By Nitish’s own admission, the ambitious “seven determinations” would cost `2.70 lakh crore in the next five years. He had maintained the state would arrange from its own resources and “would not go with a begging bowl to the Centre”.
The seven commitments include 35 per cent reservation for women in government jobs, a monthly allowance of `1,000 to the educated unemployed youth, students credit card up to `4 lakh limit, free Wi-Fi in all state colleges apart from free electricity connection in each household over the next five years.
Senior BJP leader and former Bihar deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, who was the finance minister of Bihar during the NDA rule, said, “It’s almost impossible to manage such a huge financial burden by state resources alone. The state finance is going to face the heat due to many populist announcements made ahead of the assembly poll.”
He said the state will have additional financial burden of about `6,000-8,000 crore by way of paying enhanced salary to contractual teachers and other para employees. “And that too when the state government is likely to lose `4,000 crore excise duty after implementation of prohibition announced from April 1, 2016,” he said.
Given the budgetary estimates of the state government, it is hard to believe that it may devise some innovative way to meet this huge resource gap to keep the chief minister’s rather tall election promises.
The government is largely pinning its hopes on the Centre’s financial resource transfer estimated at `4.08 lakh crore on the recommendation of 14th Finance Commission.