Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday said that the Janata Dal (United) was not giving up on the demand for special category status for the state, PTI reported.

He distanced himself from Bihar Planning Minister and JD(U) leader Bijendra Yadav’s remark that the state government was tired of asking for the special category status and was no longer interested in pursuing the demand. On Monday, Yadav had said that Bihar would now seek a special package for all sectors.

The special status category is given to states that face disadvantages such as economic and infrastructural backwardness, being located along international borders or have low population densities.

Addressing reporters on Wednesday, the chief minister said that Yadav may have made an off-the-cuff remark.

“Special status for Bihar has been demanded by us in view of its developmental needs,” Kumar said. “Though we might not have made any headway, but we are not giving up.”

On Tuesday, the Leader of Opposition, Tejashwi Yadav, had criticised Kumar, saying he has become tired.

“When the chief minister was not able to get central university status for the Patna University, how could he ensure special status for Bihar?” he said in a tweet.

The idea of special status was introduced in 1969 after the central government acknowledged that several states were more disadvantaged than the others.

Bihar has been demanding special status ever since mineral-rich Jharkhand was carved out of the state in 2000. Kumar had been at the forefront of demanding inclusion in the category and had made it an item on the election agenda during the state Assembly polls, including the one held last year.

Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) is a member of the National Democratic Alliance, which is led by the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP-led Centre, however, has not accorded the status to Bihar yet.

Meanwhile, Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Prem Ranjan Patel sought to know what special package Brijendra Yadav wanted from the Centre, The Hindu reported. “The prime minister has given Rs 1.25 lakh crore to the State as special package and had also announced to stand by the State in its hour of need,” Patel added.

Caste census

On Wednesday, the Bihar chief minister also reacted to the Centre’s statement that enumerating caste data on Other Backward Classes in the 2021 Census will be “administratively difficult” and will lack accuracy.

“It was the Centre’s prerogative to take a call on our request,” Kumar said. “Now we will decide what we can do in the state. We will soon be convening an all-party meeting to discuss the matter.”

On August 23, Kumar had led a delegation of 10 political parties from Bihar to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to press for a caste-based census. This was after the Union home ministry told Parliament that it had decided not to conduct such a census.