Kejriwal joins protest, Congress missing
New Delhi: Accusing the Centre of allocating lesser funds and violating the federal structure by interfering in the governance of states through governors and L-Gs and harassing the Opposition chief ministers and leaders through Central agencies, the I.N.D.I.A. bloc parties came together on Thursday in the national capital to protest against the BJP-led Central government. The BJP termed the protest “a political drama” with the intention of creating a South versus North narrative.’
On Wednesday, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddharamaiah protested against the Union government's Budget allocation. The Congress, which raised similar issues at their protest a day earlier, was absent, raising questions over the Opposition unity and future of INDIA bloc ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.
On Thursday, the I.N.D.I.A. bloc, barring the Congress, gathered at the same venue to protest against the Centre's fiscal policy. Among those present at the protest at Jantar Mantar were leaders and lawmakers from the Left Democratic Front of Kerala led by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwat Mann, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, DMK leaders Tiruchi Siva and Palanivel Thiagarajan, Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Communist Party of India general secretary D. Raja and Samajwadi Party-backed independent Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibbal.
The DMK MPs also protested within the Parliament complex by wearing black clothes.
Speaking at the protest, Kejriwal accused the BJP-led Central government of harassing the Opposition chief ministers by obstructing work through governors and L-Gs, stopping funds and using Central agencies to harass.
“The Centre has waged a war against the Opposition governments that represent 70-crore people in the country,” Kejriwal said.
The Delhi Chief Minister added that the protest is not for "begging or asking for anything for our families". He said: "I have come here to ask for the rights of 2-crore people. If you do not give us funds, how will we build roads, provide electricity and work for development?"
Citing Punjab's instance, the AAP national convener said the state government had to go to the Supreme Court for the release of rural development funds.
Kejriwal alleged that the governors are meddling with state subjects in the Opposition-ruled states and agencies like the ED are being used to frame the Opposition leaders.
"They have arrested Hemant Soren; now they can arrest even me. They can arrest anyone and send him to jail to topple the government. I want to ask the BJP not to be arrogant. A time can come when we will be there (in power) and you will be here (in Opposition) and the same laws can come to haunt you," Kejriwal said.
The Kerala chief minister also accused the Central government of not giving states their due share of taxes and using governors in the Opposition-ruled states to disrupt the functioning of the governments. Speaking at the protest, Vijayan said their protest was to save federalism in the country and to ensure that the interests of the people of the state are protected.
"We have all come together to register our strong protest against this and to preserve the federal structure of India. Today we are marking the beginning of a renewed fight that will herald a dawn of ensuring equitable treatment of the states. Over the years, the Union has been making laws that encroach upon the states' powers and duties in several sectors, even on law and order," he said.
Vijayan said that in the Opposition-ruled states, governors are acting at the "behest" of the Union government and disrupting the state government's work.
"We have seen gubernatorial excesses in Punjab, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and so on. In many states, including Kerala, we have seen governors trying to overreach their constitutional mandate by meddling with the autonomy of the legislature," the Kerala CM said.
“This is a democratic protest against discrimination against states. Taking into account the interests of our people, we can't be quiet. All these issues need to be addressed in such a way that India flourishes in a union of states, not a Union over states,” he said.
On the Kerala CM's protest against the Union government alleging unequal devolution of taxes to the southern states, Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said, "A political drama is being enacted in a coordinated effort by the three partners of the I.N.D.I.A. alliance... Their single-point agenda is to create a narrative of South vs North... This is nothing but a political drama to cover up their incompetence and corruption. Kerala is the most economically mismanaged state in the country. By their own admission in the Supreme Court, they have admitted that between 2016 and 2023, Kerala has run up a loss of `1,10,000 crores... Kerala is on the verge of bankruptcy. Because without Middle East remittances, Kerala's economy will be worse than the Sri Lankan economic crisis..."
"Is this I.N.D.I.A. alliance or a "deemak alliance" or a corrupt alliance? A few months back Rs 352 crores was seized by the I-T department from the premises of Congress MP Dhiraj Sahu. But neither Mallikarjun Kharge nor Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi uttered a word. After that, former Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren received 10 ED summonses for land scams and forgery in excise records. A BMW car was seized from the Delhi residence of Soren. Now, it is reported that the BMW car was registered under the name of Sahu. All these corrupt people are colluding. They think that when they come together, the strong and honest government and the Central agencies will be scared..." said BJP national spokesperson Gaurav Bhatia.
Siva, who participated on behalf of the DMK and Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin, to show solidarity for the protest, said, “The BJP-led Union government is behaving with an authoritarian approach and suppressing the states ruled by the Opposition parties... The Union government is assuming more and more powers... Even the unanimously passed legislation from Assemblies isn't getting the assent of governors.”
“The Union government is trying to strangulate the states financially and politically. We are all united in resisting and defeating the anti-federal, anti-secular RSS-BJP to protect the secular, democratic character of our Republic,”