Mamata meets Modi, seeks loan waiver, funds for Bengal

By Sarkaritel March 10, 2015 12:48

Mamata meets Modi, seeks loan waiver, funds for Bengal

New Delhi/Kolkata, March 10  After dilly-dallying for nine months, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national capital on Monday, and requested a loan waiver for her debt-stressed state and payment of dues to run welfare schemes and infrastructure projects.

This was Banerjee’s first meeting with Modi after he assumed office in May 2014.

The two-round meeting at Parliament House saw the duo first hold a 20-minute one-on-one followed by another leg of discussions where their respective teams were present.

During the meeting, the chief minister briefed Modi about the financial difficulties her state was passing through.

“During the meeting, the chief minister asked for debt relief and relief from interest payments,” said an official statement.

After listening to Banerjee, Modi explained that he was a firm believer in cooperative federalism and as he has constantly been saying that “only strong states can make a strong India and therefore, states must be strengthened to meet development needs of their people”, it said.

“West Bengal and Kolkata have to develop for their own sake, and for the benefit of the region. That is why we have the ‘Act East’ policy. The region has talented people and a lot of resources,” the statement quoted Modi as saying.

“It is with this in view that the central government has agreed to devolve 42 percent of the divisible pool of taxes to states for the next five years. This is unprecedented and a rise from 32 percent which is the current share. In addition, it has accepted other recommendations of the 14th Finance Commission relating to revenue deficit grants and other grants,” it added.

Banerjee, soon after meeting Modi, told reporters that he gave her a “patient hearing” and assured that his government would look into the issue.

“We informed him about Bengal’s financial situation. After we came to power in Bengal in May 2011, the central government has so far taken away over Rs.1 lakh crore from us towards repayment of loan drawn before we came to power.

“How can the state be run then? It is not our fault. We didn’t take the loan. It was taken by our predecessors, the Left Front government, who did not even adhere to financial responsibility and budget management (FRBM) norms.”

Banerjee claimed her government has enforced fiscal discipline by adhering to FRBM and doubled revenue collection from Rs.21,000 crore to over Rs.42,000 crore.

However, he said with the money being “snatched” from her state, “how can the government run?”

Banerjee claimed that the prime minister praised the state for maintaining financial discipline.

“The prime minister heard us out attentively. He assured us that he is happy with Bengal’s performance and would try to help as much as he could.”

The opposition parties, however, frowned over Banerjee’s claim that Modi praised the state.

State Bharatiya Janata Party chief Rahul Sinha dubbed it “Banerjee’s own version”.

Sinha said that while he was unaware of what the prime minister said, it was an Indian culture that one praises a guest who comes calling.

Former state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharya said there were much contradiction between Banerjee’s claim and the prime minister’s statement.

“Who do we believe? It seems the meeting hasn’t been able to clear the confusion in their mind about one another.”

Sidelined Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy said the meeting was “better late than never”.

Roy, who had said Banerjee should have met Modi earlier, termed the meeting a good sign.

“This is the system in a federal structure. But nine months have gone (since Modi came to power). However, it is better late than never,” he said.

CPI-M central committee member Mohammad Salim demanded a statement from Banerjee on the deliberations and alleged that she had rushed to the prime minister to save her aprty, many of whose ministers and other leaders are under the CBI scanner in connection with the chit fund scam.

Questioning why Banerjee had skipped the NITI Aayog meeting if she wanted to seek funds for the state, Salim also wondered why the chief minister did not meet Modi or union finance minister Arun Jaitley ahead of the union budget last month.

“There is something more than what meets the eye,” he said.

By Sarkaritel March 10, 2015 12:48