Ruling Left, opposition spar with each other in Assembly on Kerala's economic woes

The discussion in the Kerala Assembly on Tuesday on the state's financial problems saw the ruling Left and the Congress-led UDF blame each other, with the opposition finally walking out of the House in protest
Kerala FM K N Balagopal
Kerala FM K N Balagopal

Thiruvananthapuram | The ruling Left in Kerala and the Congress-led UDF on Tuesday sparred with each other in the Assembly over the financial health of the state, with the opposition members finally walking out of the House in protest, alleging a lack of any plan on the part of the government to improve the state's plight.

State Finance Minister K N Balagopal denied any mismanagement or extravagance on the part of the government, as claimed by the UDF, and squarely blamed the Centre's policies and neglect towards Kerala for its economic woes.

On the other hand, the UDF opposition, which moved an adjournment notice in the morning to suspend the scheduled business of the House and discuss the issue, alleged that the Left administration failed in tax administration and collection, and that it was one of the main reasons for the state's financial woes.

Denying the allegations, the government contended that the opposition's claims of state functioning coming to a halt were false and that Kerala has seen development in education, health, infrastructure and basic facilities despite the financial woes.

Earlier in the day, the UDF, in the adjournment notice, alleged that the mismanagement and extravagance of the Left government were the causes of financial problems in the state.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan welcomed the adjournment notice moved by the opposition to suspend the scheduled business of the House and discuss the issue.

During the discussion on the issue, Leader of Opposition (LoP) V D Satheesan and other UDF MLAs, including P K Kunhalikutty, Roji M John and Mathew Kuzhalnadan, said that the state government 'failed' in GST implementation, preventing the loss of its share in IGST and collecting tax from the sale of gold.

"Mr Finance Minister, you have miserably failed. Even now, try to improve your tax collection," the LoP said to state Finance Minister K N Balagopal during the discussion.

Kunhalikutty said that despite the financial problems, other than calling for a protest against the Centre, the LDF government has not come up with any economic plan to address the issue.

At the same time, the opposition conceded that the policies of the Centre and its neglect towards Kerala did contribute to the state's economic problems.

"But it was not the sole reason as claimed by the Left government," Satheesan said, alleging that the state's financial position was in a "pathetic" condition.

Refuting the charges, Balagopal said that the state's functioning has not come to a halt, as the opposition was trying to project.

He said that the state is making payments for pensions, salaries, and clearing dues for construction works and will continue to do so even if it is a bit delayed.

"All this is being done despite no help from the central government and the policies that are financially choking us," the minister said in the House.

The minister as well as various other LDF MLAs and ministers said that the opposition, instead of joining the Left front to protest against the Centre's neglect and policies, was keeping mum about it.

"They have 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha but have never raised the issue in Parliament nor outside it," they contended.

At the end of the discussion, Satheesan said that the opposition raised the issue in the House in the hopes that the government would say that it would come up with some plan to deal with the issue.

"However, in the absence of any plan from the end of the government, we are staging a walkout," he said.

Subsequently, Speaker A N Shamseer ruled that the adjournment motion was rejected.

In the morning, Vijayan, while agreeing to a discussion on the adjournment motion, said that he was pleased to see that the opposition, in its notice, agreed that the Centre's neglect towards Kerala was one of the reasons for the financial problems in the state.

Vijayan also pointed out that, despite this, the UDF MPs have never raised the issue in Parliament.

The opposition UDF has been for some time alleging that the mismanagement and extravagance of the state government were the main reasons for the financial problems in Kerala.

It had also said in the past that the union government's policies and its neglect of the state were just one of the reasons for the financial problems and not the sole cause.

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