Budget 2015: Jaitley announces 'special assistance' for West Bengal

Updated - December 03, 2021 08:08 am IST

Published - February 28, 2015 01:59 pm IST - KOLKATA

Three days after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her intent to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi with a plea for debt waiver, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in his budget speech that West Bengal, alongwith Bihar would be given a special assistance.

“Special financial assistance to be given to Bihar and West Bengal on the lines of Andhra Pradesh”, he said. The contours of the assurance package are now awaited.

It may be mentioned that this has been a long-standing demand of the Mamata Banerjee government which inherited a mountain of debt when it came to power in May 2011. However although it was an ally of the UPA-II government and had hoped for some financial succour from the Manmohan Singh government, no special package was extended, leading Ms Banerjee to cry foul.

State Finance Minister Amit Mitra had said in his budget speech on Friday that the government achieved a lot despite facing a debt-service burden of Rs 1.02 lakh crores since its takeover. “ We are carrying the debt burden left to us by the previous government and despite our repeated submission before the Central government nothing positive has come out. We do not want any special favour—this is our right”, he said. The present government too has resorted to regular market borrowings and West Bengal’s debt stood at Rs 251996.6 crores in 2013-14 as per official figures.

Setting aside her political rivalries Ms Banerjee is now ready to meet Prime Minister Modi on the debt-waiver issue. She said on February 25 that she has written to the PM seeking an appointment, asking the opposition to join her delegation too.

Political commentators say the developments have to be seen in the backdrop of the Assembly polls scheduled to be held in West Bengal. The term of the Mamata Banerjee government ends in May 2016 and although her party scored electoral success at the recent by elections, the BJP is now an formidable opposition in West Bengal. EOM

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