Led by chief minister Siddaramaiah, Karnataka Congress ministers, MLAs, and MPs converged at Jantar Mantar in Delhi on Wednesday, February 7, over the non-payment of dues by the Narendra Modi-led Union government and the “gross injustice” being meted out by tax devolution formula by the 15th Finance Commission.
“We, Kannadigas, pay taxes of Rs 430,000 crore. But we receive only Rs 50,000 crore back. That means out of every Rs 100, only Rs 13 comes back to us. Can there be greater injustice than this? Should we tolerate this injustice?” said Siddaramaiah at the protest. “Injustice with regard to tax to the tune of Rs 62,098 crore has been done to the state by the 15th Finance Commission. Shouldn’t we question this?”
The 15th Finance Commission is a constitutional body, and its primary function is to recommend the distribution of tax proceeds between the Union government and the states, as well as among the states themselves.
Meanwhile, Union finance minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, denied the accusations levelled by the Karnataka government. “The Congress-led Karnataka government has a ‘separatist’ mindset and is spreading a ‘false narrative’ about the Centre’s alleged discrimination against the state in fund allocation.”
Congress leaders hit out at Sitharaman’s statement. Speaking to The Wire, Priyank Kharge, a member of the Karnataka legislative assembly, said, “Under the 14th Finance Commission, Karnataka’s devolution was 4.71%, which has now been reduced to 3.65% under the 15th Finance Commission. Our government is losing Rs 73,000 crore every year. We’re not receiving GST reimbursement, MNREGA payments from the central government.”
Kharge further alleged, “The government is announcing budgets for us but has not given a single penny to our government.” According to the Karnataka government, it has invited all the MLAs and MPs, including the ones from the BJP to ensure that the state stands as one to press for its demands. However, Congress leaders say the BJP leaders gave the protest amiss. Out of 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state, 25 are held by the BJP and one more by its alliance, NDA.
When asked whether the Karnataka government tried approaching Lok Sabha MPs to highlight the issue to the Union government, the party’s spokesperson Bhavya Narasimhamurthy said, “We have approached them several times, we have even invited them here because we feel it is not about any party—it is about the people of Karnataka—but they didn’t come because all BJP leaders care only about their party, i.e., BJP.”
“The 26 BJP MPs never raised the state’s cause with the Centre, but they are ironically protesting against the State government,” said Siddaramaiah.
Meanwhile, the Kerala government, led by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan, is staging a protest in Delhi against the Centre’s alleged negligence towards the southern state today (February 8).