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Siddaramaiah leads protest in Delhi against Centre's 'injustice'

February 07, 2024 23:12 IST

Top Congress leaders from Karnataka led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Wednesday held a protest in Delhi against the Centre over alleged injustice to the southern state in devolution of taxes, sparking a fierce slugfest between the party and the Modi government.

IMAGE: Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, Deputy CM DK Shivakumar along with party members stage a protest at Jantar Mantar against the central government over the reduction in fund allocation, in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photograph: ANI Photo

As the leaders upped the ante with their 'Chalo Delhi' protest in Jantar Mantar just weeks ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a scathing counterattack on the Congress and urged the Karnataka government to stop creating new narratives to divide the country as it jeopardises India's future.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also lashed out at the Karnataka government, accusing it of having a 'separatist' mindset and spreading 'false narrative' about Centre's alleged discrimination against the state in fund allocation.


Speaking to media persons, Sitharaman, who is also a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka, gave a point by point rebuttal to the claims made by the state government, and accused the chief minister and his colleagues of making 'outrageously' false charges.

Sitharaman later told the Lok Sabha that the Centre has released all funds due to the Karnataka government as has been recommended by the Finance Commission from time to time.

"I want to assure the House that whatever has been recommended by the Finance Commission, I followed to the last word," she said wondering 'where is the Karnataka denied money'.

Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar, several Congress MPs, ministers and MLAs from Karnataka were also part of the protests which lasted two hours.

The Congress has alleged that 'injustice' has been meted out to Karnataka in tax devolution and grants-in-aid over the past few years.

The party leaders demanded that the Centre set right the losses to the tune of Rs 1.87 lakh crore allegedly incurred by Karnataka under the 15th Finance Commission.

Siddaramaiah said their protest is not against the Bharatiya Janata Party but the discrimination against Karnataka.

Dismissing the BJP's allegation that the protest was aimed at raking up a North-South divide, the chief minister said the Congress wants the country to be united but there should be no discrimination against the southern states.

"We are raising the issue of discrimination meted out by the government of India to the state of Karnataka and other southern states," Siddaramaiah said while addressing the protesters.

"This is why I had written a letter to all the MPs of the BJP and the JD-S asking them to participate in this agitation," he said.

"Our protest is to urge that the hen that lays the golden egg should not be beheaded, and the udder that gives milk should not be cut."

Replying to the debate in the Rajya Sabha on the Motion of Thanks to the President's address, Prime Minister Modi accused the Karnataka government of building a narrative to divide the country through advertisements.

The state government had brought out front page 'My Tax My Right' advertisments in major dailies to highlight what it said was the 'financial atrocities committed by the Central government on Kannadigas and Karnataka'.

"'Desh ke andar yeh bhav todne ka kya prayas ho raha hai?' (What is this narrative being played to break the nation). 'Hamara tax hamara money', (Our tax, our money) what is this language being spoken?

"Stop giving such new narratives to break the nation. It poses a threat to the future of the country. Make efforts to take the country along," the prime minister said.

"Today I want to share my pain on a specific matter...The way language is being spoken these days to break the country, these new narratives are being made for political gains. An entire state is speaking this language, nothing can be worse for the country than this...what language have we started saying."

Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the formula used to devolve taxes to the states, especially Karnataka, under the 14th Finance Commission was changed by the 15th Finance Commission and called for reverting to the old formula to stop the loss of revenue for his state.

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.

"We are the voice of Karnataka. We demand justice," Shivakumar said.

"It is not a show of strength. You see, the people of Karnataka don't want to show our strength. It is the voice of Karnataka, where injustice has been done. 7 crore people, they are giving tax every day, we are getting only 13 per cent, we want our share."

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said the protest was to safeguard the interests of Karnataka.

At her media interaction, Finance Minister Sitharaman took strong exception to the newspaper advertisements for the 'Chalo Delhi' protest.

"These claims comes from a separatist mindset. ...The Congress is with those who want 'tukde tukde' (break) of the country," she said claiming that the advertisement promotes such a language.

In this context, she also cited the remarks of Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar's brother and MP D K Suresh, who had suggested that South India may seek a separate country if the Centre's alleged discrimination continues, to slam the Congress.

Sitharaman gave out figures of the funds allocated to the state from the Centre to reject the charges and claim that the Siddaramaiah government is feeling the heat due to the financial burden of nearly Rs 58,000 crore for implementation of his party's poll promises.

Several Karnataka BJP MPs also lashed out at the Karnataka government over its claim that the state was not getting funds from the central pool proportionate to its contribution, saying the argument is not only against federalism but also very 'anti-national'.

They held a press conference in Delhi where Tejasvi Surya, a Lok Sabha MP, accused Siddaramaiah of making baseless and false allegations since his government cannot fulfil unrealistic promised made during assembly polls.

BJP legislators and party leaders in Karnataka also staged a protest in Bengaluru in what is seen as a counter to the Congress protest.

Led by the party state president B Y Vijayendra, they staged a sit-in demonstration in front of Mahatma Gandhi's statue near Vidhana Soudha, which houses the State Legislature and Secretariat of Karnataka.

They were taken into preventive custody when they tried to lay siege to the Siddaramaiah's office.

BJP veteran and former chief minister B S Yediyurappa also hit out at Siddaramaiah and the Congress, terming the protest as a 'drama' in order to hide the failures of his administration.

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