New Delhi: A day after Karnataka protested against alleged fund cuts in its share of central taxes at the city’s Jantar Mantar, Kerala descended here on February 8 to register its agitation against alleged attack on federalism by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government.
In addition to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann also took part in the protest.
The Kerala leaders alleged the Centre has reduced the State’s receipts by Rs 57,400 crore in the current fiscal year. They said the state is not receiving its rightful share from the taxes collected by the Central government.
They said Kerala lost Rs 12,000 crore this year due to the cessation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) compensation since June 2022. The compensation, promised for five years after GST's introduction in 2017 to offset revenue shortfalls, was allegedly terminated.
They urged an extension of the compensation period, citing challenges in achieving the pledged 14 percent annual tax growth rate under the GST due to implementation issues, such as natural disasters and Covid pandemic.
Kerala's share of taxes in the divisible pool collected by the Centre decreased from 3.87 percent during the 10th Finance Commission to 1.925 percent in the 15th Finance Commission, leading to a substantial revenue decline.
The state attributes this reduction to its effective population control measures, which inadvertently impacted its allocation.
The leaders called on the Centre to address second-generation development challenges, lifestyle diseases and the aging population when determining allocations.
Chief Minister Vijayan, in his inaugural speech, stated, “The BJP-led Centre is consistently targeting non-BJP states by framing the latter’s demands as a north-south divide.”
“Our protest is to save democracy and federalism and against discrimination, irrespective of geography. For our citizens’ and state’s well-being, silence isn't an option,” he said.
Arvind Kejriwal took a dig at the ruling party by saying, “I think the BJP is competing with the British in terms of looting from us.”
He alleged they are using governors and lieutenant governors as obstacles in states’ administration. In Punjab, he said, the governor did not even allow a budget session, so the party had to go to the Supreme Court against him.
Chief Minister Mann remarked, “The Centre has forgotten the promises they had made to the farmers. Now, they are planning to go on a strike once again.”
Referring to Prime Minister Modi’s statement that the Opposition is trying to create a “rift between North and South”, CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury pointed out the irony in the remarks.
“The prime minister needs a lesson in geography. Kejriwal from Delhi is not South. Punjab’s Bhagwant Mann is not South. Farooq Abdullah from J&K is not South,” he said.
He then added, “This is not a fight between North and South but a fight for our fundamental rights, which is guaranteed by the constitution of India.”
Also in attendance were CPI General Secretary D. Raja, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Rajya Sabha member and lawyer Kapil Sibal, Tamil Nadu Minister and DMK leader Palanivel Thiaga Rajan, alongside several ministers, MPs and MLAs from the ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) in Kerala.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin also addressed the protesters via a pre-recorded video.