BJP hits back as Opposition parties raise issue of ‘North-South divide’

Leaders from Tamil Nadu joined the saffron party, BJP MPs from Karnataka met the media in Delhi, and the party released a statement on the protest by Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan

February 07, 2024 06:24 pm | Updated February 08, 2024 02:37 am IST - NEW DELHI

Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) National President Tejasvi Surya addresses a press conference, at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM) National President Tejasvi Surya addresses a press conference, at BJP headquarters in New Delhi on Wednesday. | Photo Credit: ANI

On a day when Karnataka Congress leaders, including Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, mounted a protest in New Delhi against what they termed unfair devolution of tax money to the southern State, the BJP worked hard to puncture the north versus south comparison mounted by the Opposition, with new entrants to the party from Tamil Nadu, and press meets by its State leaders in Karnataka and Kerala.

After the results of the five State Assembly elections came out, and the BJP swept the Hindi-speaking States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh, and the Congress won Telangana, Congress leaders put out statements pointing to this divide. During the current Budget session, D.K. Suresh of the Karnataka Congress protested against low levels of tax devolution to southern States, going on to even say that it may persuade southern States to secede from India. On Wednesday, as Karnataka Congress leaders made their way to Delhi to protest the alleged issue, the BJP made its counter strike on the narrative.

Also Read | South may seek nationhood if funds are not distributed equally: Karnataka Congress MP D.K. Suresh

At noon on Wednesday, a number of leaders from Tamil Nadu, including 15 former MLAs and one former MP, joined the party in New Delhi, amidst cries of “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, a signal that the slogan wasn’t just a Hindi-north Indian vibe. Most of these leaders were from the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), a former BJP ally in the State, and their entry into the party took place in the presence of Union Ministers Rajeev Chandrasekhar and L. Murugan, besides the State BJP president K. Annamalai. With their arrival in the party’s fold, they are expected to increase the acceptability of the BJP in Tamil Nadu, where the party has had limited success.

Karnataka BJP MPs protest against Congress near the Gandhi statue at the Parliament House complex during the Budget session, in New Delhi, on Feb. 7, 2024.

Karnataka BJP MPs protest against Congress near the Gandhi statue at the Parliament House complex during the Budget session, in New Delhi, on Feb. 7, 2024. | Photo Credit: PTI

Next, BJP MPs from Karnataka addressed a press meet at the party headquarters in New Delhi, lashing out at the Congress government in Karnataka over its claim that the State was not receiving funds from the Central pool proportionate to its contribution. Tejasvi Surya, BJP MP from Bangalore South, alleged that the protest by the Karnataka Congress was an “alibi” for the State government, which was finding that it could not fulfil unrealistic promises made during the Assembly election.

Also Read | Union Ministers seek apology from Congress for MP’s remark on ‘separate nation’ for south

Mr. Surya said the Congress had promised 10 kg free rice to the poor before the election but realised after coming to power that the State could not procure enough rice, and began blaming the Central government. He added that the total tax devolution to the State during the 2004-14 rule of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was ₹81,795 crore while it jumped by 250% to ₹2,85,452 crore during the 2014-24 BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. The grant-in aids during the corresponding periods were ₹60,779 crore and ₹2,08,832 crore, respectively, he said.

“The Congress is the original tukde-tukde party of the country. They were solely responsible for India’s Partition. The same party is again speaking in separatist and divisive tone yet again today. This is inherent in its DNA. People of the country and the State will reject their argument,” Mr. Surya said.

Later in the day, Union Minister V. Muraleedharan and BJP Kerala in-charge Prakash Javadekar, who took on Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan over his plans to protest in Delhi on Thursday, again over the question of insufficient Central funds to the State. The statement said that it was the financial profligacy demonstrated by both the Left Democratic Front (LDF) and United Democratic Fund (UDF) governments in Kerala, and not the Union government, that had left the State in a bad financial condition.

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