NEW DELHI: Despite the TMC’s friendly vibes to the BJP in the hope of securing ‘more funds’ from the Centre, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday remained noncommittal on the demand for a three-year moratorium on the interest payment from debt-ridden states,like West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab.
Replying to the debate on Union Budget in the Lower House, Jaitley tactfully sidestepped the issue saying the “14th Finance Commission was looking into the matter and will come up with a response”.
Seeking clarification from the Finance Minister, senior TMC MP Saugata Roy said that it was time that the Centre took a call on the demand made by West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab, whose revenue earnings were mostly spent on paying off the interest on the debt burden inherited from the previous administration. Jaitley, while admitting that the debt-ridden states pull down the overall economic parameters and that the historical reasons for their economic plight are well known, though, pointed out that the Union Budget was not the forum for addressing the concerns in this regard.
Since the TMC’s epic victory in the 2011 Assembly Polls, which brought the curtain down on the over three-decade-long Left rule in West Bengal,Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been lobbying first with the UPA Government and now Narendra Modi Government for debt relief. As part of the strategy, the TMC has in fact, scaled down its Opposition to the BJP-NDA Government in Parliament. Due to the interest outgo, development projects worth over `3 trillion could not be taken up in the state. Kerala has maintained that its debt burden is well within the manageable limits.