Kerala government protest in Delhi: CM Pinarayi Vijayan demands equitable treatment of States

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, NC leader Farooq Abdullah, DMK leaders Tiruchi Siva, Palanivel Thiagarajan , CPI’s D Raja and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal joined the protest.

ByK A Shaji

Published Feb 08, 2024 | 2:11 PMUpdatedFeb 08, 2024 | 2:27 PM

Kerala protest Delhi

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday, 8 February, dismissed the allegation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the southern states are posing a threat to the federalism of the country.

Vijayan, protesting against the Union government at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar along with Opposition leaders and LDF leaders from Kerala, said that the protest intended to ensure an equitable distribution of resources to all states.

The primary Opposition in Kerala and the main constituent of the INDIA bloc — the Congress — left itself out from the protest.

“Yesterday, when Karnataka protested (in Delhi)  demanding a rightful share of taxes, the Prime Minister indirectly hinted against the protests being planned by the South Indian states. He indicated that federalism was in danger and the southern states were damaging the national unity,” said Vijayan.

He also alleged that the Union government made laws which were in clear violation of federal principles.

Also Read: Kerala’s heavy off-budget borrowings made it a financially unhealthy state: AG

‘Standing for unity’

“All south Indian states are standing for the unity of the country apart from secularism and federalism. Our protests are only intended to strengthen the unity and integrity of the country and for an equitable distribution of resources,” added Vijayan.

In his speech, the Kerala chief minister accused the Union government of not giving states their due share of taxes, and using Governors in Opposition-ruled states to disrupt the functioning of the governments.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwat Mann, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, DMK leaders Tiruchi Siva and Palanivel Thiagarajan also took part in the protest, along with Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, CPI general secretary D Raja and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal.

Interestingly, there were no representatives from the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the NCP (Sharad Pawar faction). NCP is a part of the ruling alliance in Kerala.

Meanwhile, Kejriwal hit out at the BJP-led Union government, accusing it of waging a war against state governments led by Opposition parties.

Also Read: CM alleges Union govt’s discrimination against Kerala “weakened cooperative fedaralism’

‘Discrediting Kerala’s self-esteem’

Speaking at the protest, Vijayan also dismissed the ruling party’s allegation that the protests would promote a north-south divide and said they were there to ensure that the interests of the people of the Southern states were taken care of.

Vijayan said that the Union government was discrediting the self-esteem of Kerala.

“Kerala witnessed a rapid rise in all sectors but the Union government was not helping the state achieve more heights by denying funds,” Vijayan alleged.

The Union government is collecting huge funds from cess and surcharges but there is no proper devolution of the tax share to states, he said.

Saying that the case was similar for GST income, Vijayan added: “For the last 8 years, states are not getting proper share from the GST collections and the rightful shares due for the states are getting kept pending.”

The Kerala chief minister also said that strengthening federalism was a collective effort involving both the Union government and state governments but the Union government was not cooperating with the states.

Alleging a revengeful approach to states, especially non-BJP ruled states, in terms of tax devolution Vijayan said that the Finance Commission was taking unilateral decisions.

Also Read: Karnataka’s discrimination charge due to ‘separatist mindset’: Sitharaman

‘Finance Commission taking unilateral decisions’

“The Finance Commission is taking unilateral decisions without consulting state governments and without bothering about the implications of the decisions,” Vijayan said.

“Kerala has made a lot of achievements by effectively controlling its population, but that achievement is turning as a punishment for the state,” he added.

Citing population slowdown, Vijayan alleged, the Union government is cutting short the allocations to Kerala.

“So, achievements are now turning into a bane for Kerala. UGC’s pay revision was implemented in Kerala some years ago but even now the union government is not providing its share and it has become a liability for Kerala,” he added.

“In the case of rubber, the Union government had said earlier that they would impose some taxes on foreign exports but it is not implemented yet. So, the local farmers are suffering due to low market price for rubber,” Vijayan contented.

Also Read: Why hasn’t Telangana government joined Karnataka’s protest?

Comes down heavily on Governors

Vijayan said that in Opposition-ruled states, governors are acting at the “behest” of the Union government and disrupting the state government’s work.

“Governor is another issue between the Union government and non-BJP ruled states. In all non-BJP states, Governors are creating issues. But in the case of Kerala, the Governor is playing with fire.”

He has no time to fulfil his constitutional duties. However, at the same time, he is creating drama on the roadside. Even today he is in Delhi to watch what is happening here and how many people are addressing the meeting,” he said.

“The ‘Union over States’ mentality is being reflected in how the Governors across Opposition-ruled states are functioning. Constitutionally, Governors are to exercise their duties on the advice of the State Cabinets. However, we are seeing this phenomenon of Governors in Opposition-ruled states acting at the behest of the powers that appointed them, ie, the Union Government,” he said.

“We have seen gubernatorial excesses in Punjab, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, etc. In many states, including Kerala, we have seen Governors trying to overreach their Constitutional mandate by meddling with the autonomy of the Legislature,” he said.

“There is no truth in the allegations of the state opposition that we are engaged in an extravaganza. So far the government has made all efforts to collect revenue from non-taxable sources,” Vijayan said.

He dismissed the UDF claim that the Union government funds were not the only cause for the financial woes of the state.

“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 would herald a dawn of ensuring equitable treatment of the States,” he said.

“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 also said their protest was to save federalism in the country.

“This is a democratic protest against discrimination against states. Taking into account the interest 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 union over states,” he said.

Also Read: How a spectre of contradictions is haunting CPI(M) 

‘Harassing Opposition-ruled states’

“Opposition parties represent 70 crore people in the country. The BJP has waged a war against the opposition-ruled states. The Union government is using all the tactics to harass the opposition governments,” Kejriwal said at the protest.

He added, “It is depriving them of valid funds, obstructs work through Governors and LGs. They are also harassing them by using central agencies to arrest opposition leaders.”

He said the protesters were not “here to beg or ask for anything for our families.”

“I have come here to ask for the rights of two crore people. If you do not give us funds how will we build roads, provide electricity and work for development,” the Aam Aadmi Party National Convener said.

Citing Punjab’s instance, he said the state government had to go to the Supreme Court for the release of rural development funds.

The Governors are meddling with state subjects in opposition-ruled states and agencies like ED are being used to frame opposition leaders, he alleged.

“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.

(With PTI inputs)