Poll-bound Bihar and politically volatile West Bengal were in for a bonanza in the Union Budget on Saturday, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley promptly got a surprise pat on the back from Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar. Kumar, a sworn political enemy of BJP, had raised a few eyebrows when he met both PM Modi and the FM on Thursday.
Special status for Bihar was one of his long-standing claims, and on Saturday, Kumar thanked the FM “for this gesture”. “I had personally met Jaitleyji at his official residence, had submitted to him a memorandum detailing some of our demands,” he said. Political commentators were quick to point that the preference given to these two states would help BJP in its negotiations with regional parties to soften their resistance to key bills in Rajya Sabha while it will also rejuvenate BJP’s political activities in these states.
Taking off from the recent recommendations of the Finance Commission about devolving larger share of tax revenues to states, Jaitley said on Saturday that “both Bihar and West Bengal are going to be amongst the biggest beneficiaries of the recommendations of the Finance Commission.”
Jaitley announced a “special assistance to Bihar and West Bengal as has been provided by the Government of India in the case of Government of Andhra Pradesh”. Bihar also stands to get another AIIMS, for which too Nitish thanked the FM.
The Budget promises AIIMS campuses to states like J&K, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Assam—all states where the party is trying to expand or has allies who need to be impressed upon. For its own party-led governments, only three new National Pharma institutes have also been announced to be set up in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, apart from Maharashtra.