Mamata serves 15-day ultimatum to Centre

Reiterating her demand for an interest moratorium for the cash-strapped West Bengal government, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday gave the central government a 15-day ultimatum and warned that its ‘indifferent attitude’ could become a ‘big issue’.

By (Agencies)

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Published: Mon 23 Apr 2012, 12:30 AM

Last updated: Fri 3 Apr 2015, 9:41 AM

“We do not have enough income to pay the interest for the debt burden bequeathed by the erstwhile (Left Front) government. We are repeatedly urging (the central government) that we do not need its mercy, but that it should provide us at least a three-year interest moratorium. They should give us the moratorium as we are unable to pay it,” Banerjee said during a programme here.

She also took a dig at the central government for deducting Rs15 billion from the state’s share of Central Sales Tax (CST) compensation. “We have been waiting for one year. But enough is enough. The central government has also deducted Rs15 billion from our share of CST compensation. On the one hand, it is cutting Rs22 billon as interest, and on the other it is deducting Rs15 billion from CST compensation. It means the central government is making the state government debt-ridden to ensure that it cannot function,” she stated.

“I will certainly not tolerate it,” the chief minister warned and gave the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government 15 days to decide on the interest freeze for three years. “I am still appealing to the central government, but if it continues to remain indifferent, then it will be a big issue. I will still wait for 15 days. I have earlier called on the Prime Minister and met with the finance minister several times, but till now we have not received any funds,” Banerjee stated. She recently said the debt burden bequeathed by the erstwhile Left Front government in the state could be more than the estimated Rs230 billion. The state government’s current annual outgo on interest payments is around Rs22 billion.

Banerjee has also been insisting that since the new government has inherited this huge quantum of debt burden, the central government should find a way to waive these loans or settle the debt.

The Trinamool Congress with 19 members in the Lok Sabha and 6 members in the Rajya Sabha is the second largest constituent of the ruling UPA II.

Currently, the relationship between the Congress and the Trinamool is going through a rough patch after the Trinamool openly opposed various policies of the central government.

Meanwhile, the Congress sought to play down Mamata Banerjee’s ultimatum saying “every Chief Minister or state has some legitimate expectations and aspirations and wants the best possible for his or her state.” “If West Bengal Chief Minister has certain issues, demands and aspiration with the central government, I am sure the government will interlocute with her and see how the development imperatives of the state can be addressed under the Constitutional framework”, party spokesperson Manish Tewari said.

Tewari virtually blamed the media for seeing Banerjee’s demand as threat saying “it may make catchy headlines but there is a certain sense of responsibility which all stakeholders in public discourse should exercise.”

Noting that the central government will have a ‘constructive approach’ towards such demands, Tewari said ”If any Chief Minister has aspirations, which are legitimate and will really benefit people, I am sure the Centre will leave no stone unturned so that its development imperatives are met and will do all that can legitimately be done”.

He, however, declined to answer why the government did not decide on the special package demand of Banerjee in the last one year saying this can be explained only by someone privy to the negotiations.

Tewari pointed out that some other states have also been making such demands to cater to their development aspirations and insisted that such aspirations by any one should not be construed as threats.

A senior Congress leader said the government will walk the extra mile to address the concerns of allies.

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