Tamil Nadu's financial position is “quite sound”, Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said here on Saturday. He was speaking to reporters after releasing the Congress election manifesto.

Without responding directly to a question on the financial implications of freebies promised by his party's alliance leader Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Mr. Mukherjee said that Tamil Nadu had not taken overdraft “for a single day because of the sound financial position.”

He pointed out that as on March 24 this year (just a week to go for the close of the financial year), the cash balance of the State was Rs.13,537 crore. Besides, its fiscal deficit had never gone beyond 3.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. While it was just 1.01 per cent in 2005-06, it was 1.61 per cent in 2006-07, 1.34 per cent in 2007-08, 3.01 per cent in 2008-09 and 3.44 per cent in 2009-10.

“Tamil Nadu is one among the very few States where fiscal discipline and consolidation is quite satisfactory compared to various other States.”

According to him, various free schemes and “certain facilities” to the poor was not a new phenomenon. N.T. Rama Rao introduced a scheme in 1983 under which rice was supplied at Rs.2 a kg for people below poverty line.

“Such schemes have now become universal. Whether the State's finances have the capacity to bear the expenditure is the question. Tamil Nadu is in a sound financial state with strong fiscal position than most other State governments,” he reiterated.

Mr. Mukherjee said that he was seeking people's mandate for Democratic Progressive Alliance candidates as it would lead to “greater co-ordination and co-operation in implementing the programmes and policies of the Union government.”

Explaining how the United Progressive Alliance government has been helping Tamil Nadu, he pointed out that the share of the State apportioned by the Finance Commission increased by 127 per cent from Rs.36,688 crore (under 12th Finance Commission) to Rs.83,437 crore (under 13th Finance Commission). “There will be no dearth of cooperation to the government and the people of Tamil Nadu (from Central government)”.

Mr. Mukherjee also commended Tamil Nadu for its performance under 11th Five Year Plan. Its developmental expenditure shot up from Rs.9,132 crore in 2005-6 to Rs.17,500 crore in 2009-10. “It is quite natural that people of Tamil Nadu will get the benefits of developmental outlay.”

If the DPA is returned to power it would lead to “effective implementation of plans to make Tamil Nadu an important investment destination.”

Asked whether his party would seek share in power, he shot back: “Let us think of it when we cross the bridge. First priority is to get majority.”

He refused to comment on the Election Commission's stringent action to ensure fair polls and the allegation by Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi that it had virtually imposed “undeclared Emergency.”

He dismissed the charge of All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa that Manmohan Singh was a weak Prime Minister unable to initiate action on various scams and said the Prime Minister was “alert and active and taking appropriate action.”

To a question on crusade against corruption by Gandhian Anna Hazare, the Finance Minister (who will head the new bill-drafting committee) said that the Lokpal Bill was pending for the past 40 years and could not be passed due to lack of consensus.