Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on February 10, 2023 asserted that resources for States have been raised sharply in the Union Budget 2023-24, called out Opposition-ruled States like Kerala, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh for hiking taxes on petroleum products and red-flagged irregularities in West Bengal’s implementation of schemes such as PM Awas Yojana.
Hitting out at the Opposition’s charges that Budget’s ‘green’ allocations were driven by considerations “keeping someone in mind”, possibly referring to the Adani Group which has ambitious green hydrogen plans, Ms. Sitharaman said the Narendra Modi government “doesn’t keep just one person, but everybody and the country, in mind, while taking decisions.”
“So giving such statements is absolutely wrong. If anything, if such language continues and I have been repeatedly the target of such a leader… I don’t want to name because the leader is not around... [who] throws an allegation and goes away. If allocations were made, phone calls were made, if relations were given benefit, if Jijajis and Bhatijas [brothers-in-law and nephews] got benefits, it might be their culture and under Prime Minister Modi, none of us do any of that,” Ms. Sitharaman underlined.
“Any such allegation will be given back in the same language. I’m sorry I cannot afford to have this kind of language,” the Minister remarked during the debate on the Budget in the Lok Sabha.
On West Bengal MPs’ claims that GST compensation dues of ₹823 crore are pending, Ms. Sitharaman said she was stunned at the facts. “The GST compensation claims with certificates from the Accountant General [AG] haven’t come from West Bengal since 2017-18. Then what should I do? Without the AG’s certificate, how can I pay?”, she asked.
“We are told repeatedly that the Centre doesn’t pay West Bengal its dues. We are ready to pay the dues, but at least follow the due process,” Ms. Sitharaman averred, adding that the State also owes the Centre ₹1,841 crore as dues for availing the help of Central armed police forces.
The Congress did not participate in the Budget debate in the Rajya Sabha later in the day, protesting the suspension of senior MP Rajani Patil.