Amal Sarkar

At Brigade Parade Ground, Shaheed Minar Maidan, here and there, Jyoti Bose used to say whenever he got an opportunity—’The Center has money printing machines. Not in the hands of the state. The center prints money whenever it wants. does not give to the state.’ In many such words of Jyoti Babu, the lecture hall of Central-State Relations became the arena of public meeting.

Image - Delhi's plan to kill the state with rice, which way will Didi walk?

Due to the fact that the topic of Jyoti Babu came up, a screenshot of a daily news story went viral on social media some time ago. Mamata Banerjee’s name was written on it, the Chief Minister said, like the Centre, states also need to have money printing machines. Based on that screen shot, some BJP leaders mocked the Chief Minister and commented, ‘Didi’s brothers can print as much money as they want’, ‘Then he will demand the army from the state’, etc.’

Many people who practice economics and centre-state relations feel that with the way Narendra Modi is leading the country, it would not be surprising if an BJP-ruled chief minister demanded the right to print money in the hands of the state government. Mamata Banerjee went ahead and warned, ‘We have to pay the due amount, otherwise we can stop GST.’

There is no similarity, including time, environment, situation, but this reference to the history of the subcontinent will not be irrelevant to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s historic six-point demand half a century ago. At the end of the struggle for freedom, it took the form of a liberation war. One of the demands was a separate Reserve Bank and a separate currency for East Bengal. The bulk of the total revenue of integral Pakistan came from the eastern part i.e. East Pakistan. In return, he would get a pittance. Although it must also be admitted that the brutal zamindari established in the east by the then western rulers of Pakistan, the Congress leadership in Delhi never walked the path. But the duties of the Center towards the States have been seen from the beginning in terms of subjects and landlords. Bidhan Chandra Roy, Jyoti Bose to Mamata Banerjee and Congress to BJP in Delhi, that tradition continues. That’s why Mamata Banerjee has to say, ‘Do you have to take Delhi’s foot to get the money owed?’

Delhi means Narendra Modi. This is what he actually wants, understood Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Jaganmohan Reddy. He has made a habit of standing in front of Modi and Amit Shah. Looking ahead to 2024, the Modi-Shah duo is planning to do so. There is no doubt that Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Joro Yatra has left a mark on people’s minds. How much the Congress can benefit from this campaign will depend on many other numbers, equations. But there is no doubt that the country will be well. He gave birth to a different current against the monogamous politics of division.

Notably, this is the first time that BJP has not targeted any of Rahul’s programs in that way. They must be measuring the water. But the bigger challenge facing Narendra Modi in the 2024 battle is regional parties. Starting from West Bengal and moving along the coast to Odisha and the entire Deccan, the BJP’s main rival regional parties are everywhere except Karnataka. The results of the by-elections of some assembly constituencies in some states that took place this month also showed how big an obstacle the regional party Gerua Shibir is facing.

As much as the BJP insists on re-contesting Delhi in 2024, they do not talk as much about the assembly elections in Odisha and Jharkhand, which are ruled by two regional parties. Significantly, the two Congress-ruled states of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh and their Chief Ministers are not being heard in the ongoing state-governor dispute, dispute over state debt.

Keeping this stark reality of regional party power and influence in mind, the Modi-Shahs are on the path of first killing these party-ruled state governments, forcing them to submit to Delhi.

After coming to power in 2014, Modi tried to bring the ruling regional parties closer with his Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (late) talking about a cooperative united state system. Before the election, he came to Bengal and gave the bait of double laddu. As it did not work, the message was gradually given that the ruling party of the state must come to an understanding with the Centre, i.e. BJP, to get fair dues. In 2024, Narendra Modi, who is going to Delhi victory journey again, should show green signal in the state, not the red light.

Image - Delhi's plan to kill the state with rice, which way will Didi walk?

This is how Modi won in 2019 by taking advantage of opposition disunity. On the initiative of Mamata Banerjee, the leaders of 19 parties took an oath to oust Modi from the stage of the brigade, but in reality they showed him the black flag in the state. No one tried to stop it. In that opportunity, BJP was able to snatch 18 seats from two to one in Bengal.

Still, the question of opposition to the BJP casts no doubt on Mamata Banerjee’s integrity and commitment to her party’s refusal to participate in the vice-presidential election. There was no doubt about Jagdeep Dhankar’s victory. But Trinamool’s decision to abstain from voting has been seen as a shift of support from party workers to ordinary people.

As a result, the central-state bargaining on the fair dues, the question that is increasingly becoming grainy in the middle of the sweet-hard Tarja, will Mamata Banerjee also continue to fight, or will she walk the path of Jaganmohan?

On the one hand, severe financial crisis, on the other hand, one after another corruption charges against the government, some of the top leaders in jail, ED, CBI investigation against some – all in all, the Trinamool has never faced such a difficult situation with the party and the government. Sarada, Narad’s shock has been overcome by delivering services to the poor people. The Duare government program before the last assembly polls gave further impetus to that work. The announcement of Health Saathi Scheme and Lakshmi Bhandar by playing in the ballot box. The financial resources required for that have started to strain. And this time, Delhi has withheld fair dues to central projects. Even the only income scheme recognized by the constitution, Modi government is not giving money for 100 days of work.

And on this opportunity Kalidasi got wind in the sails of politics. BJP leaders have started Udbahu dance. An enthusiastic person has written a letter to the Prime Minister stating that the money for the central project is being sought. In fact, it is being said, don’t give money to the state.

The words are not new. Apart from the leftist parties, all the front line parties of Bengal have done this Kalidasi politics. After Mamata Banerjee became the Chief Minister, the Left Front handed over the memorandum with the state’s demand to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who visited Kolkata. However, Mamata Banerjee used to walk the opposite path when she was the leader of the opposition.

Nine-sixths of government money is never desirable. Again, irregularities and corruption are not new and exist in all states irrespective of party, no less than others. So how long can this hateful politics of killing the people of the state in the name of disciplining the state government by stopping the project money continue?

A ridiculous, absurd, baseless charge by Delhi against the states, the central scheme has been renamed. The thing is, Mahatma Gandhi’s picture is printed on the money, not Narendra Modi’s. But many of the 33 centrally-aided schemes have the word ‘Prime Minister’ prefixed to their names. Showing his funny pictures in the campaign has become a kind of norm. Currently the Mid Mill Scheme has been named as PM (Prime Minister) Nutrition Scheme. The project to build a model school is named PM Sri Vidyalaya. But in most of the projects, 40 percent of the total cost is financed by the state. So why object if the name of the project is ‘Banglar Bari’, Nirmal Bangla’? Why not print the photo of the Chief Ministers with the Prime Minister?

Image - Delhi's plan to kill the state with rice, which way will Didi walk?

Already the system of devolution of powers in the constitution has created a fiscal gap between the center and the states. The Constitution has given the Center additional powers to collect revenue. But the responsibility of citizen welfare and development is left on the shoulders of the states. However, like the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers, they have to work for the people and sit in the seat of power by winning the elections. There are no discounts. In 2018-19, the states held only 37.3 per cent of the total assets, the 15th Finance Commission report said. They have to bear the burden of 62.4 percent of the expenses with that money.

When states need additional money, they have to borrow money from the market with the permission of the Reserve Bank. The loan has to be repaid with high interest. The Reserve Bank prints money when the center needs it. Those whose sleep is disturbed by the burden of state debt do not even try to know the central debt figure (152,17, 910.29 crores), which is weighing on the heads of 1.4 billion Indians every day.

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