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‘Special Status’ demand that is blocking the parliament could lead to a dangerous domino effect

The parliament is being stalled continuously by the MPs from Andhra Pradesh over the ‘special status’ demand ever since the second part of the budget session began on 5th March. In an earlier article, the background of Andhra’s special status demand and the political deadlock was explained in detail.

Granting a special status to one state would obviously revive earlier demands for special status which had been rejected in the past. After seeing the success of Andhra MPs in stalling the parliament persistently on this demand, Bihar MP Pappu Yadav has also submitted a notice to discuss a special status for Bihar.

The last time Bihar’s demand was examined was under UPA. An inter-ministerial group had rejected Bihar’s plea as it did not fulfil the criteria for declaring it as a special category state. The criteria for declaring a state as backward are:

  • Hilly and difficult terrain,
  • Low population density and a sizeable share of tribal population,
  • Strategic location along borders with neighbouring countries,
  • Economic and infrastructure backwardness
  • Non-viable State finances.

The state’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had also been a vocal advocate of the special status recognition. Instead of the ‘special status,’ the state is now getting a ‘special package‘ which will help the state overcome its backwardness. Even Odisha had been demanding for a special category under UPA regime. Similar to Bihar, Odisha’s demand had also been rejected. Now both JDU and BJD are reviving their demands along with TDP in order to up the ante against a resurgent BJP and revive their political capital in their home states. Eventually, other backward states like Rajasthan could also jump on the bandwagon.

If the centre were to agree to larger allocations for these backward states in addition to what is being disbursed under the current scheme, it would further anger southern states which are already complaining about taxes from their states being given to backward states in the North. Thus, a balancing act which seems to be working reasonably well would be destabilised if the centre gives the special status to any particular state.

It is true that the BJP had promised the special category status to Andhra during its campaign. In its place, the centre has offered a special package which would be its monetary equivalent. If Andhra MPs don’t stop their agitation and settle for a compromise, they could jeopardise the sympathy their state has received so far. It would also provide credence to other demands for ‘special status’ by states which are worse off than Andhra.

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