Puducherry budget session adjourned due to delay by Centre in approving draft budget?

Opposition MLAs says Centre hasn't approved draft budget, wonder if all is well with BJP-AINRC alliance in the UT.

ByUmar Sharieef

Published Aug 11, 2022 | 6:24 PMUpdatedAug 11, 2022 | 8:36 PM

Tamilisai Soundararajan

The budget session of the Union Territory of Puducherry began on 10 August, only to adjourned sine die even before the budget for fiscal year 2022-2023 could be presented.

Soon after the customary address of Lt Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan, the Speaker of the house, R Selvam, adjourned the Assembly indefinitely.

No date was given for the presentation of the budget.

Sources in the Puducherry’s political circles told South First that the budget was not tabled as the Union government had not approved the draft. Puducherry being a Union Territory, needs the Centre’s approval of its draft budget to proceed.

The Union government’s refusal to approve the budget ahead of the session at a time Puducherry Chief Minister N Rangasamy — also leader of the BJP-All India NR Congress (AINRC) alliance — has sought additional funds from the Centre, has raised questions about whether all is well with the ruling alliance.

All well with the BJP-AINRC alliance?

Congress MLA Vaidyanathan told South First that it was the second time that the Assembly’s budget session had adjourned indefinitely as the Union government failed to approve the draft budget.

The first was during the Congress-led government of V Narayanasamy.

“The Speaker of the Assembly, however, said that he adjourned the session as several ministers and a few MLAs were going to partmeicipate in the ‘Har Ghar Thiranga’ program in New Delhi on 11 August,” the MLA said.

He also said the coalition of AINRC and the BJP has not benefitted the UT in any way, and it is evident in the adjournment of the budget session.

“The central assistance for the UT has decreased. Last year, the assistance was ₹1,874 crore; this year it was reduced to ₹1,724 crore,” he said.

Former Puducherry chief minister Narayanasamy told South First that the Union government’s stand in not approving the budget speaks volumes about the interest of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the UT.

“If Rangasamy and BJP maintain a good status in terms of the coalition, why hasn’t the BJP approved the budget? If this is not an attack on the UT’s welfare, what is it then?” he said.

“If the Union government didn’t release additional assistance to the UT, then there would be changes in taxes, and the government would halt welfare schemes,” he said.

What did the Lt Governor say? 

Soundararajan said in the Assembly that the per capita income has increased in Puducherry state compared to last year.

“Of the… allocated budget of ₹10,416 crore last year, 94 percent has been spent,” she said.

She also informed the Assembly that Southern Railway has re-examined the project to link Puducherry and Cuddalore and was preparing the project.

However, the opposition MLAs from the Congress and DMK staged a walkout from the Assembly, demanding the Lt Governor‘s resignation.

They arrived at Assembly wearing black clothes in protest against the Lt Governor.

The opposition leader in the Assembly, R Siva, told South First that Soundararajan went to Delhi to meet Prime Minister and Union ministers several times. but nothing good has happened to UT. She had gone to Delhi only for political reasons.

Citing Rangasamy’s meeting with Prime Minister Modi on 9 August, Siva demanded the resignation of the chief minister, too.

Another impediment to the budget presentation

During his meeting with Modi, the chief minister said that he couldn’t present the 2022-23 budget for the UT unless the Centre grants Puducherry additional assistance of ₹2,000 crore.

The additional central assistance of ₹2,000 crore is essential to maintain the revised estimates for 2021-22 if the Centre does not extend GST compensation during the current fiscal year, reported The Times of India.

The report also said the Centre extended ₹1,724 crore in assistance for the current fiscal year, ₹150 crore less than the central assistance of ₹1,874 crore extended in 2021-22.

The chief minister also urged the Centre to treat Puducherry on par with other UTs and extend 100 percent funding in all Centre-sponsored schemes.

In the Puducherry Assembly, AINRC has 10 MLAs, DMK has six, Congress two, and the BJP nine MLAs, besides six independents, with three supporting the BJP and three supporting AINRC.