Three southern states – Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu – have reached Delhi to knock on the doors of the central government alleging discrimination in the federal funds allocated to states.
Karnataka government was the first to take the streets as top leaders of the state, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy DK Shivakumar, gathered at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. They claim the BJP-ruled government at the Centre is withholding funds and has purposefully reduced the state’s share of tax revenue.
Mr Shivakumar said Karnataka ranks second in Goods and Services Tax (GST) collection and is the biggest contributor to the country’s revenue.
“We are asking for our rights, we are asking for our share. The Karnataka government had sought drought relief funds from the Centre but not even a single rupee was given,” he said.
The protesters, NDTV has been told, are also demanding the centre correct the Rs 1.87 lakh crore loss incurred by the state government. According to the Chief Minister, the formula to calculate the devolution of tax revenue to states, specifically his state, was incorrectly altered by the 15th Finance Commission.
Not to be outdone, the BJP launched a protest of its own – in Bengaluru – to highlight the “failures” of the Congress government in Karnataka. BJP legislators and leaders led by the party state president BY Vijayendra staged a sit-in demonstration in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue near Vidhana Soudha yesterday, which houses the State Legislature and Secretariat of Karnataka.
Holding placards, the protestors raised slogans condemning the Congress government for allegedly failing to offer relief to drought-hit farmers and incentives to milk producers.
Taking a cue from Karnataka’s protest, MPs from Tamil Nadu and Kerala will also stage protests in Delhi today. Through their demonstrations, the state governments aim to highlight the “injustice” in tax devolution and grants-in-aid they have been subjected to over the past few years.
Tamil Nadu MPs of the ruling DMK and its alliance partners will protest near the Mahatma Gandhi statue in the Parliament complex today.
Kerala Chief Minister Pinaryai Vijayan and members of his Left Front government are scheduled to hold a protest at Jantar Mantar today.
The centre vs states row over funds allocation to states has heated up since Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presented the Interim Budget on February 1. The ongoing session of Parliament has witnessed several arguments between the Centre and the Opposition over the issue. The funds allocation issue also saw Ms Sitharaman and the Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury squabbling in Parliament.
Mr Chowdhury claimed non-BJP states, specifically in South India were “deprived of their financial dues”, including those related to GST, or Goods and Services Tax, compensation.
An incensed Ms Sitharaman hit back, explaining that “devolution to states… happens as per Finance Commission recommendation”, and that she had no “discretion” in the allocation of tax revenues.
From the administrative side, Finance Secretary TV Somanathan told NDTV yesterday that financial allocations to states are based on uniform guidelines that leave no room for discrimination.