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BJP Creating Bogus North-South Divide Narrative, say 3 Chief Ministers in Delhi Protest

Ravi Kaushal |
Pinarayi Vijayan, Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann lash out at Centre for depriving citizens of development by denying funds to states.
Kerala govt protest against central govt

New Delhi: The people of Delhi witnessed perhaps one of the strongest protests ahead of Lok Sabha polls at Jantar Mantar on Thursday when three Opposition Chief Ministers - Delhi, Punjab and Kerala -- spoke against ‘intimidation’ of state governments by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre through central agencies and fund denial. Former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah also joined the protest.

The dharna, organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), saw wide participation from political parties, intellectuals, lawyers, teachers and students who said that the Centre’s denial of funds was deeply hurting the development of states ruled by Opposition parties. They added that the Centre was also creating a ‘bogus’ North-South divide narrative to dodge its responsibility of fair sharing of taxes.

Addressing the protest gathering, John Brittas, Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha, from Kerala a fake narrative was being peddled by the BJP IT cell and mainstream media that a divide between South and North India exists. In reality, if Karnataka in South India is demanding its due share of taxes, so is West Bengal in East India and Punjab in North India, he added.

Incidentally, both West Bengal and Karnataka governments have also held protests against the “financial atrocities” of the Centre.

Addressing the gathering, Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister, Kerala, said over the years, the Union government had been making laws that encroach upon the states' powers and duties in several sectors, even on law and order, which is in the State List in the Constitution.

“Laws have been made in agriculture, education, power, cooperation and so on, crippling the states' rights. Even a Ministry for Co-operation has been formed. Multinational agreements are being entered into on issues that affect states, without seeking their opinion, let alone getting their consent. These are all telling examples of how the rights of states are being trampled upon and how India is being changed into an undemocratic 'Union over States,” he added.

Vijayan said a “body blow” to India's federal structure was coming from the Union that was “eating into the states' financial resources”. 

“It is being alleged that the same people who wax eloquent about cooperative federalism, have tried to undercut the resources to be allocated to the states by the Finance Commission,” the Chief Minister added.

Citing RBI data, Vijayan said states were having to cover a substantial 65% of the country's total expenses, with the Union’s contribution being only 35%.

“But when it comes to revenue sharing, it goes in the reverse direction. The Union government pockets about 65% and the states are left with only 35%. States have to meet 65% expenses with only 35% revenue. Even in the interim Budget that was presented a few days ago, states are being further squeezed as the loans given for capital expenditures have been reduced,” he added.

Citing the example of Kerala's LIFE Mission, the veteran Left leader said that so far 3,74,508 houses had been built under it.

“A total of Rs. 17,104.87 crore has been spent for it. The Union's share in it is merely Rs. 2,081.69 crore, a paltry 12.17%, while 87.83% of the cost has been borne by the Kerala government and the LSGIs (local self-government institutions) in Kerala. Even in this project, they are adamant that they (Centre) should be named. If not, they say they will withhold even their miniscule share.”

Vijayan added: Just imagine the pitiable scene of a poor man's house bearing the mark that it is somebody else's gift. To put such a mark, amounts to an insult on the self- esteem of the family concerned. We would like to make it very clear that Kerala will in no way allow this to happen.”

BJP Waging War Against Opp States: Kejriwal

Echoing similar sentiments, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said it appeared that the BJP had waged a war against Opposition parties who represent 70 crore people, half of the population of the country.

“Does BJP not consider the people of Delhi, Bengal and Punjab citizens of this country? We have been constitutionally elected and that clearly earmarks the powers of state governments. Today, we are facing harassment on three fronts; our funds have been denied, the Centre is arm-twisting us, and officials and central agencies are arresting leaders on whims and fancies of the Union government,” said the Aam Aadmi Party leader.

“How will state governments develop projects if funds are denied? The people of Delhi collectively pay Rs 2 lakh crore to the Centre and get a paltry Rs 325 crore in return. Similarly, the Punjab government moved a file to seek permission to conduct the Budget session last year. It was summarily denied. In Delhi, you are well versed with the antics of Lieutenant Governor. They have made a mockery of democracy,” he added.

Bhagwant Mann, Chief Minister, Punjab, said that the example of the Chandigarh mayoral elections had clearly exhibited how low BJP could go to get power.

“We are yet to receive Rs 8,000 crore of Rural Development Fund. I do not understand this demand that the photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be on everything and if we deny this, our funds would be stalled,” he said.

The tableau of Punjab was also denied (participation in the Republic Day parade) because it depicted the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru along with cultures and traditions of the state. “Have they become greater than our martyrs?”, he added.

Kapil Sibal, former Education Minister and senior advocate, Supreme Court, said the BJP was deriving power through electoral bonds and the money was being used to dismantle state governments through bribes.

“I am fighting the case of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren and anybody would say that the Enforcement Directorate has built the case on flimsy grounds. The FIR was registered on the presumption of 8.5 acres of land belonging to him because a local lady told officials that it belonged to him, whereas that land cannot be sold or purchased under Schedule 6 of the Constitution. I was appearing in the electoral bonds case in the Supreme Court and found the party (BJP) has collected Rs 5,000 crore through them. It is this money that they are using against Opposition parties,” Sibal alleged.

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