Opposition slams decision to suspend MPLAD fund scheme for two years

A knee-jerk reaction, says Congress; unilateral decision which will hamper democracy, says Trinamool

April 06, 2020 10:55 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:33 am IST - New Delhi

The Opposition parties reacted sharply to the Union government’s decision to suspend the MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) fund scheme for the next two years, subsuming the funds to the Central pool to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Congress spokesperson and Lok Sabha MP Manish Tewari said it was a knee-jerk reaction much like the lockdown at a four-hour notice. While he and rest of the Congress fully supported the 30% cut in the MPs’ salary, suspension of MPLAD funds was an “overstretch.” “MPLADS is a targeted and nimble instrument to customise micro level interventions to alleviate distress,” he said.

Thiruvananthapuram MP and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, in a long Twitter thread, said it would have been better had the government brought in an order to earmark the funds only to be spent for COVID-19 related expenditure.

‘Direct responsibility’

“MPLADS is the only means for an MP to direct development resources to his constituency,” he said. It preserved the sense of direct responsibility for the well-being of constituents. With the money going into the Central pool, it now depends on the Centre’s priorities and preferences on how to spend it.

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“To take one example, the Centre has allocated ₹157 cr of Disaster Response Mitigation Funds to Kerala, which has 314 #COVID19 cases, while Gujarat, with only 122 cases, gets ₹662 cr. Will this kind of imbalance also affect the reallocation of MPLADS funds?” he questioned.

His Lok Sabha colleague Karti Chidambaram said it was a sinister move to make MPs redundant and enforce a presidential form of government. “If the government wants to garner funds, why doesn’t it scrap all its vanity projects like the central vista project?” he questioned.

Other Tamil Nadu MP Manickam Tagore said that by withdrawing the MPLAD scheme the government would be punishing the constituents. “Take 75% of my salary, but why punish my constituents,” he asked.

‘Whimsical decision’

The Trinamool Congress called it a “whimsical” and “undemocratic” decision which takes away the freedom of elected MPs to carry out developmental work in their constituencies. “We all have contributed to tide over this pandemic but to use it as an excuse to stymie local area development will not solve the problem. Much like the demonetisation, this is an unilateral decision which will hamper the democracy in the country,” TMC Lok Sabha MP Saugata Roy said.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said this decision to centralise the funds would weaken the fight against COVID-19, since there was enough evidence that the pandemic was best fought at the State and local level.

“This govt has been fudging data and had pushed economy steeply downhill even before #COVID19. Transfer of money to Consolidated Fund of India, instead of being directed towards fighting COVID19, shows that it is a measure to deal with the economic destruction caused in last 6 years,” he tweeted.

‘No consultations’

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said that even the BJP leaders must be uncomfortable with this decision. “No one is standing against the government in this hour of crisis. But they could have at least consulted all political parties before unilaterally taking this decision,” he said.

Telugu Desam Party’s K. Rammohan Naidu said that while the decision was welcome, he hoped that the government still keep the parliamentarians in loop about how they were planning to spend the money. “It would have been better if they had consulted us before taking this step. But even now they can consult us and listen to us in case some urgent need arises in our constituencies,” he said.

CPI Parliamentary Party leader Binoy Viswam shot off a letter to the Prime Minister opposing the decision. He argued that the MPs with their own free will agreed to contribute from the MPLAD fund. “It is completely inexplicable how the Union Cabinet took the decision today when a democratic method to achieve the same results was already in existence,” he said.

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