Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, in a speech that could match any of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's orations in its lyrical quality, on Sunday put the onus of the state's development at the Centre's doorstep.
Speaking at the closing session of Global Bihar Summit 2012, Kumar deftly, but determinedly, blamed the Centre's policies for stalling Bihar's development. For the state to quickly catch up with the national averages on key parameters of living standards, he said, the Centre would have to loosen its purse strings.
At the same time, he gave a new dimension to the often-used term of inclusive growth, which has become something of a mantra for the United Progressive Alliance.
"Inclusive growth means development of all parts of the country. We cannot create islands of development, such as west and south, and leave out the rest," Kumar said.
The Centre's policies in the past, he said, had achieved the opposite for Bihar.
Kumar came down especially hard on the Freight Equalisation Policy. Adopted by the Centre in 1948, it said factories could be set up anywhere and the government would subsidise the cost of transporting minerals and other raw materials.
This took industrial development away from states like the undivided Bihar, which was rich in natural resources.
Citing the example of the sugar industry, Kumar said Bihar produced 25 per cent of the country's sugar in 1947, a share that has come down to 2 per cent.
As sugar mills moved out of the state, sugarcane came to be grown in areas where the fields need frequent irrigation, compared to nearly zero need for irrigating the crop in Bihar.
Bihar, said Kumar, had been doing all it could on its own. Reeling off the state government's achievements
in the areas of infrastructure and agriculture, he said rapid progress had been made, but at this pace it would still take a quarter of a century for Bihar to catch up with the national averages.
Announcing that the state had just inked a project to make a long bridge over the Ganges under the public-private partnership model where the investor had asked for zero viability gap funding, Kumar directly addressed Planning Commission Member Abhijit Sen, sitting in the front row among the audience.
"How much proof do you want, Mr Sen? Please open your coffers for us. We will make do with what we get. But we do want to raise the question whether we deserve more. The rest is up to you. Even if you do not give us more, we will continue to do what we can. But then your claim of inclusive development will ring hollow. Please remember that the poor are less dishonest, and we are poor."