Kottayam (Kerala) | A war of words erupted on Saturday between the Left front government and the principal opposition Congress in Kerala over the grim financial position of the state.
While the opposition alleged mismanagement and extravagance by the administrators as its reasons, the LDF regime accused the latter of non-cooperation in pressuring the Centre to get the state the deserved funds.
Earlier in the day, the Congress categorically rejected Kerala Finance Minister K N Balagopal's recent charge that none of the Congress-led UDF MPs had gone to submit a memorandum to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman detailing the state's demands.
The Congress said that they were not invited by him for the purpose.
There was no need for any UDF MPs to go for handing over the memorandum without any proper invitation, Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly V D Satheesan said.
"The state Finance Minister's allegation that the non-cooperation by the UDF MPs in submitting a complaint to the Centre is the cause of the state's financial crisis is strange," he told reporters in Kottayam.
In the evening, Finance Minister Balagopal came out rejecting Satheesan's claims and reiterated his allegation that neither the Lok Sabha MPs nor their Rajya Sabha colleagues of the Congress-UDF have extended any cooperation to apprise the Centre about the state's demands.
In a Facebook post, Balagopal claimed that the reply of the LoP in the matter was "misleading".
He said it had been decided during the recent MPs' conferences, chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, that the MPs would bring before the Parliament the negligence shown by the Centre towards the state in financial matters.
During the meeting, it was also decided that a memorandum would be submitted to Sitharaman in this regard, he said.
"A detailed note was also prepared for the same. But none of the Congress-led UDF MPs were ready to either sign or accompany the state delegation that went to submit the memorandum. This was the issue that I raised," the minister said in his social media post.
However, the UDF is now trying to mislead everyone by saying that their MPs were not invited while I had reached Delhi to meet the Union Finance Minister, Balagopal explained.
"I never said anywhere that the UDF MPs didn't accompany me during my meeting with the Union FM. They are trying to change the topic by bringing up a matter that I never raised," he said.
The backtracking of the opposition MPs from the earlier decision to stand united to force the Centre to release the state's deserved funds was "extremely painful and "condemnable", he said.
The minister also attacked the LoP for not criticising the Centre for the financial crisis being faced by the state.
While addressing reporters in Puthuppally in Kottayam, Satheesan termed as "strange" the charges of non-cooperation levelled by Balagopal and said he was trying to cover up his own incompetence by raising baseless allegations.
At the outset, it should be made clear why the Centre was denying funds to the state, he said.
The LoP further said the opposition had warned several times inside and outside the Assembly that thousands of crores of rupees borrowed outside the state budget for the Kerala State Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) and pension fund would finally come under the budget limit.
The alarming financial position of the state was also mentioned in the White Papers released by the Congress-UDF recently, he pointed out.
"The current fiscal crisis is due to the state government's mismanagement and failure in collecting taxes," Satheesan alleged.
When GST came to existence, all states had changed their tax collection system but Kerala was reluctant to do it and so the state had no tax revenue now, he further charged.
The southern state should have received the highest tax revenue through GST but it receives only less than 10 per cent now, he said and alleged that though tax collection is less, extravagance and corruption are high in the state.
The mismanagement and indiscriminate borrowing outside the budget during the time of the first Pinarayi Vijayan government have pushed the state to the present financial crisis, Satheesan said.
But still the government was trying to blame the opposition MPs for the same, the Congress leader said adding that Balagopal had no idea how to tackle the situation.