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BJP Vs Congress In Delhi, Karnataka As Centre-States Fund Row Heats Up

New Delhi:  The BJP and the Congress went head-to-head in Delhi and Karnataka's Bengaluru Wednesday morning over allegations the centre is withholding funds - including devolution of tax revenue and failure to release funds to combat drought in several districts - to the state government.

Among other points, the Congress is protesting a reduction in their share - from 13 per cent to 12 per cent - of tax revenue. "Nobody is denying there is a system (but) how come, in the previous system we got one per cent more?" Karnataka Minister Priyank Kharge, part of the protests, asked.

Visuals from the Jantar Mantar area in Delhi - where top Congress leaders, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah and his deputy, DK Shivakumar, also showed party workers scuffling with police.

The protesters, NDTV has been told, are also demanding the centre correct the ₹ 1.87 lakh crore loss incurred by the state government. According to the Chief Minister, the formula to calculate devolution of tax revenue to states, specifically his state, were incorrectly altered by the 15th Finance Commission.

"We are staging this protest to make sure the centre (gives) funds it must give to us. We expect centre will listen to us... our intention is to protect Kannadigas' interests," the Chief Minister said.

To drive home his point, Siddaramaiah claimed the centre had yet to release ₹ 5,300 crore for the Upper Bhadra irrigation project that had been set aside in last year's budget. "This is not a political protest by Congress against BJP... we are protesting step-motherly attitude of centre..."

"BJP MPs, and MLAs (from the state) are invited... join us to raise our voice for the state's rights," the Chief Minister added, a day after a cheeky move by his government - an "invitation" to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman - a Rajya Sabha MP from the southern state - to the protest.

Not to be outdone, the BJP launched a protest of its own - in Bengaluru - to highlight the "failures" of the Congress government. That agitation is led by the saffron party's state boss, BY Vijayendra, and is taking place in front of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi at the Vidhana Soudha, or state Assembly.

The BJP is also protesting in Delhi, at the Parliament building, and Union Minister Pralhad Joshi and former Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa have both criticised the Congress.

Mr Joshi said Siddaramaiah had no real grounds to protest and called his comments about reduced tax devolution "unfounded. Mr Yediyurappa dismissed the protests as "drama" before elections.

The centre vs states row over financial allocations and tax devolution has made headlines over the past weeks, with Ms Sitharaman and the Congress' Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury squabbling in Parliament.

Mr Chowdhury claimed non-BJP states, specifically in South India - were "deprived of their financial dues", including those related to GST, or Goods and Services Tax, compensation.

An incensed Ms Sitharaman hit back, explaining "devolution to states... happens as per Finance Commission recommendation", and that she had no "discretion" in allocation of tax revenues.

From the administrative side, Finance Secretary TV Somanathan told NDTV yesterday that financial allocations to states are based on uniform guidelines that leave no room for discrimination.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinaryai Vijayan and members of his Left Front government are scheduled to hold a similar protest in Delhi on Thursday.

Source: NDTV

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