ALL COALITION partners in the state government should work in tandem with each other, said former chief minister and senior Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan on Thursday while addressing a video conference with senior journalists from Nagpur. In reply to a question on functioning of the government, Chavan said, “It’s not important who shines. In current times, it is important to work with coordination.”
Asked if that meant coordination was lacking, Chavan said, “The government is doing its bit but the bureaucracy is making its own decisions. It feels it has more power in this situation. It must take people’s representatives into confidence.”
Chavan also said Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari was being “very proactive of late”. “It’s not proper in a time of crisis to create a picture of dispute and instability,” he said.
Chavan targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on their handling of the economy. “The PM recently delivered the Atmanirbhar speech but there is no clarity on what he has in mind to lift the sagging economy. Atmanirbhar Bharat is just another jumla,” he said.
“Modi also addressed the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), where he spoke of lifting the economy out of the current crisis but has no roadmap for it,” he added.
Chavan said cash should be pumped into the economy and into the hands of people to increase purchasing power. “The Congress has initiated the NYAY scheme in Chhattisgarh and it needs to be done at a national level too. The Centre must try and augment demand to kick-start production. If needed, loans should be raised to pump in cash into the economy,” he said.
Chavan pointed out that the economy was in dire straits even before the coronavirus crisis set in. “It’s evident from the fact that the growth rate had dipped to 3.1 per cent in the last quarter of the previous financial year itself,” he said.
Chavan also put the onus for improvement of the state economy on the Centre. “The state has only excise duty on liquor, cess on petrol and diesel and stamp duty, etc, to improve finances. A large part of its economy depends on GST (goods and services tax) share and funds from the Centre under Finance Commission provisions. Also, the state government has demanded Rs 50,000 crore from the Centre, which hasn’t arrived yet,” he said.
He blamed the Centre for Mumbai’s coronavirus emergency as well. “International flights should have been stopped immediately after WHO declared the pandemic early in March. But over 2.5 lakh international passengers came into the city between the WHO declaration and the first lockdown. That has worsened the situation,” he said.
About his controversial remarks on seeking temple funds, Chavan said, “I didn’t say temple. I spoke of religious places. I suggested raising gold loan,” he said.
Chavan also criticised the Centre for lack of transparency on the PM-CARES fund. “Nothing is known if there is going to be an audit or balance sheet of the fund. They have virtually barred corporates from giving CSR (corporate social responsibility) funds to Chief Minister’s Fund,” he said.
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