Southern states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala crying hoarse over GST compensation is a political ploy to blame the Narendra Modi-led central government because the ruling parties in these states are unable to fulfil their election promises, Union Minister V Muraleedharan told News18 in an exclusive interview.
The Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs & External Affairs also challenged opposition parties to give a breach if privilege motion in Parliament instead of holding press conferences to accuse Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman of “misleading” the House.
The North-South divide seems to be deepening, with the southern states claiming that they have been given the raw end of the deal and have been denied fund allocations despite being high contributors to GST. The Congress and other opposition parties claim that BJP leaders refuse to speak up for the people of the south, so they have to come to Delhi to be heard. How do you react?
Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, no discrimination has been meted out to any state, irrespective of the support the government receives from the states. Be it Karnataka, where we have 25 seats in the Lok Sabha, or not even a single seat in Tamil Nadu and Kerala… that has nothing to do with the development plan that PM Modi plans across the country. Whether it is railways, roadways, or other infrastructure, or issues related to the poor and the downtrodden, the marginalized, aspects related to trade, industry, or agriculture, every state gets its due and is taken care of. That is the reason why Karnataka and Kerala got the opportunity to host the G20 events as well.
Where is the discrimination? It is nothing but a political slogan because they are not able to fulfil the promises made by them to the people, be it Karnataka or Kerala. The governments of both states, in a way, have failed in fulfilling the promises they made when they came to power, and now they want to put the blame on PM Modi. This is only a prelude to the election campaign; otherwise, they know that they will be defeated in a very bad way in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
You are saying that the non-BJP states are converting this into an election campaign in the name of discrimination on tax devolution and other issues?
Of course. It is not converting; it is only a ploy to save themselves from the blame that they are getting from the people of their states for not fulfilling the promises they made to their electorate that votes for them.
The Kerala government is also in Delhi, along with TN; they also claim that they have been decimated. Their voices need to be heard; southern states pay the highest GST and do not get their due?
In 2016 itself it was said that five years’ compensation on GST will be given by the Centre. 2017-2022 is five years, right? When everybody knows that in 2022 the compensation will be over, they should have realised the tax collection in their states. In Kerala, the CAG has said that Rs 28,000 crore is pending in tax collection. I will not say it is the fault of the GST officer because recently the GST department got the award for raising the maximum sponsorship for the Keraleeyam program that was hosted by the Kerala government.
GST officers have the capabilities to raise that, but when the CPM party raises funds for their party events, they cannot be strict on the tax that has to be levied from big businessmen? This clearly shows there is a tacit understanding — ‘You don’t pay the tax; you give us for our party funds’.
The allegation is that what Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says on the floor of Parliament is not what the reality is. How do you respond?
Why don’t they give a breach of privilege notice? No minister can mislead Parliament, and if any minister misleads Parliament, it is the right of any member of Parliament to move a breach of privilege notice. The simple fact that they have not moved it till now shows that they only do this in press conferences and they cannot speak about this in Parliament.
What would the BJP and the Centre’s stand be now?
These kinds of political protests have been taking place for the last 10 years. This is another political protest, and people understand these issues well. They see through all these things, and each time, they have given a befitting reply to those who have been making such protests. In 2019 also, there were protests before the elections, a lot of hue and cry was created in the name of Rafale. Ultimately, people gave an answer. People will show them their place in 2024 when the results come.
PM Modi speaks of a handsome victory for the BJP; 370-plus seats for the BJP and the NDA. That preparation and those numbers, do you think that southern India will contribute to it?
Of course, it will come from every state of southern India. I am sure.