Patna: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today praised Chief Minister Nitish Kumar for his "commitment" to Bihar's development, as the two leaders shared the stage for the first time after the JD(U) returned to the NDA fold.
Modi, who attended the centenary celebrations of the Patna University (PU) here along with Kumar, said the Centre and the state government led by Kumar will work together with a pledge to bring Bihar on par with the other prosperous states by 2022.
"Nitishji is committed to development of Bihar... and the central government has pledged to develop the country.
Together the two will work together to ensure that Bihar is counted among the prosperous states by 2022 when the country celebrates 75 years of independence," the prime minister said.
Modi said that Bihar has been blessed by Saraswati, the Goddess of learning.
"But the time has come to propitiate Laxmi (Goddess of wealth and prosperity) as well and take the state to new heights of development," he said.
Addressing the gathering, Kumar said that "it is a day of great honour" that the prime minister is present for Patna University's centenary celebrations.
He also made a fervent plea to Modi "with folded hands that central status be granted to Patna University".
However, Modi, during his address, said that measures like grant of central status were "a thing of the past" and his government has taken "a step forward" towards making 10 private universities and 10 government ones world class.
"I would like to say something about a demand that was raised here and met with loud cheers by the young crowd attending this ceremony. Issues like grant of central status have become a thing of the past. We are taking a step forward.
"We will provide an assistance of Rs 10,000 crore to 10 private universities and an equal number of government ones for a period of five years. All these universities have to do is to demonstrate their potential to become world class," he said, addding, "I exhort Patna University to seize this opportunity."
Modi began his speech on a humorous note, saying "the chief minister said in his speech that I was the first Prime Minister to visit this university. It seems my predecessors have left quite a few tasks for me".
Earlier, the prime minister was welcomed by Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik and the chief minister among others at the Patna airport from where he drove straight to the Patna Science College campus.
This is the prime minister's first full-fledged official tour to the state since the BJP became a part of the ruling coalition in Bihar in July this year after Kumar-led JD(U) snapped its alliance with Lalu Prasad's RJD and the Congress.
In August, Modi along with Kumar had made an aerial survey of the flood-hit districts of Bihar.
The prime minister had promised a "package" of Rs 1.25 lakh crore in 2015 for the state during the campaign for the assembly elections in which the BJP and the JD(U) were pitted against each other.
The two parties remained partners in Bihar for 17 years but the JD(U) severed ties in mid-2013 over elevation of Modi as BJP's prime ministerial candidate.