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Union Minister’s Big Challenge To Kerala Left MPs

Union Minister’s Big Challenge To Kerala Left MPs

Union Minister's Challenge Amid 'Separate Country', Centre-State Funds Row

New Delhi:

Union Minister V Muraleedharan on Thursday launched a two-for-one attack on the ruling Left Front in Kerala and the opposition Congress, accusing the former of mishandling the state economy and then making wild allegations against the centre, and the latter of having lost the trust of the people.

“Government of India has categorically stated that whatever is due for, as per documents submitted, has been provided. If Left Front believes the Finance Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) is misleading the House, I challenge the Left Front MPs to move a breach of privilege in Parliament,” he declared.

Mr Muraleedharan – who is from the state – claimed Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan‘s government had “lowest expenditure on capital expenditure… highest allocation towards salaries and pensions”.

“Communist Party of India (Marxist) is engaging in political drama in Delhi to divert attention from its failures and (to) mislead people angry about their mismanagement,” he told a TV channel.

The Union Minister dismissed the Congress as having “nothing to say”, and said, “They are trying to gain by creating a bogey of a ‘north-south’ divide. People from southern states are as committed to national unity as people from other states. No one will buy their (the Congress’) argument.”

The majority of his ire, though, was reserved for the CPIM.

“Kerala has been in a state of long-term debt distress. The Finance Commission, Reserve Bank of India, and independent agencies have pointed out flaws in Kerala’s finances. The CPIM government has made no effort in the last seven years to improve the state’s status,” Mr Muraleedharan said.

The Union Minister’s twin strikes come amid controversy over a Karnataka Congress MP’s comments, after the interim Budget was presented, about a “separate country (of South Indian states)” if concerns over allocation of funds, including devolution of taxes, to the southern states.

READ | Congress MP Sparks Fresh Row, Demands Separate Country For South

The row over funding for states has spiralled over the past few days, with sharp exchanges between Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and opposition MPs in Parliament and protests by the Kerala, Karnataka (where the Congress is in power), and Tamil Nadu (ruled by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, a Congress ally and INDIA bloc member) governments in Delhi and Bengaluru.

READ | BJP Vs Congress In Delhi, Karnataka Amid Centre-States Fund Row

On Tuesday Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy, DK Shivakumar, protested at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar against the centre’s “step-motherly” treatment of southern states.

Today they have been joined by their two neighbours.

At yesterday’s protests Karnataka Congress leaders aired a list of grievances, including an Rs 1.87 lakh crore shortfall in revenue from the centre, a one per cent reduction in share of tax revenue between the 14th and 15th Finance Commissions, and lack of funds for drought-hit districts.

The charges laid by the Congress at Ms Sitharaman’s door – Lok Sabha MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury this week said southern states were being “deprived of their (financial) dues” – were strongly rebuffed by the Finance Minister, who said devolution of taxes and financial allocation “happens as per Finance Commission recommendation” and that she has “no discretion” in such matters.

READ | On Tax Dues Row, It Is Nirmala Sitharaman Vs Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury

“I don’t have right to change (allocations)… because I like a state (government) or if another is ‘against’ my party politics. No way. I have no role…” she responded to Mr Chowdhury.

READ | “No Discrimination”: Finance Secretary On Centre-States Funds Row

Finance Secretary TV Somanathan told NDTV the same thing yesterday, explaining that financial allocations to states are based on uniform guidelines that leave no room for discrimination.

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