Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Friday trained his guns on Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for not releasing to the state Rs 5,300 crore for the Upper Bhadra project announced in the union budget and the Rs 11,495 crore special grants recommended by the 15th Finance Commission.
Days after staging a demonstration in New Delhi against the alleged apathetic attitude of the Centre in distributing funds to Karnataka, Siddaramaiah on Friday questioned Sitharaman’s sense of responsibility towards Karnataka as a Rajya Sabha member from the state.
Speaking to reporters, the chief minister recalled that Ms Sitharaman had said in last year’s budget that Rs 5,300 crore would be given for the Upper Bhadra project by March 2024.
“It was not just a statement somewhere but a commitment made in her (Ms Sitharaman) budget speech. After announcing Rs 5,300 crore for the Upper Bhadra project, she did not give us even a rupee till date,” he claimed.
Pointing out that the state government has spent Rs 2,435 crore on the project this fiscal, he said that out of the total of Rs 8,000 crore funds pumped into the project so far, Karnataka’s share is about Rs 6,000 crore.
The Upper Bhadra project is a major lift irrigation scheme under implementation in the central region of Karnataka. It envisages lifting up to 17.40 TMC of water in the first stage from the Tunga to the Bhadra river and lifting 29.90 TMC of water in the second stage from the Bhadra to a tunnel near Ajjampura in the Tungabhadra sub-basin of Krishna basin.
The total cost of the project is estimated at Rs 21,473.67 crore.
Asserting that the Centre’s injustice should anger Kannadigas, the chief minister said, “Once it is mentioned in the budget, the Centre should release it. And she (Sitharaman) is representing Karnataka as a Rajya Sabha member. Doesn’t she have the responsibility after announcing Rs 5,300 crore for Upper Bhadra?” He also said that Deputy Chief Minister D K Shivakumar had met Union Water Resource Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat and insisted upon the release of funds, but to no avail.
Furthermore, Siddaramaiah said that the finance minister had rejected the 15th Finance Commission’s recommendation on special grants.
“The 15th Finance Commission had recommended special grants; one was Rs 5,495 crore and another was 6,000 crore. Both put together was Rs 11,495 crore. But we did not get even a rupee of it. It was rejected by Nirmala Sitharaman. Is it not an injustice?,” the chief minister asked.
When he was asked whether the state was planning to approach the Supreme Court, Siddaramaiah said he had not thought of it yet, but characterised what happened as injustice. “But it is true that injustice has happened because for each Rs 100 tax collected by us for the Centre, we get only Rs 12 to Rs 13 in return while Rs 87 or Rs 88 goes to Centre,” Siddaramaiah explained.
He said when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister, he had once said that the Centre should directly collect taxes from the people of the state instead of recovering the tax revenue from the state administration.
“Now he (Modi) says that we are dividing India. What should we call him for his previous statement (as Gujarat CM)?,” Siddaramaiah wondered aloud.
He pointed out that when the BJP’s Basavaraj Bommai was chief minister, his 2023-24 budget had reiterated that the state would get Rs 5,300 crore because Nirmala Sitharaman had said so during the union budget speech. Bommai had also said that the Upper Bhadra project would be declared a national project.
“Did they (BJP) do it? You (people of Karnataka) should be angry at the Centre,” Siddaramaiah said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)