Even as it faces brickbats from Punjab’s opposition parties for towing Centre’s line on various issues, the state’s Amarinder Singh government has been lately taking on the BJP-led Union government directly on several issues.
Starting from financial aid during Covid times to knocking on Supreme Court’s doors on JEE-NEET entrance exam, to shortfall of GST compensation, the SYL row, agricultural ordinances and Electricity Act, 2020, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s government has been vocal is opposing the Centre on all these matters.
While most of the non-BJP governments in other states have taken on the Centre on non-payment of GST compensation and the conduct of JEE-NEET entrance exam amid Covid-19, Punjab has even hit the Union government hard on issues like SYL, agricultural ordinances and, scholarship for SC students.
State Finance Minister Manpreet Badal, however, says all this does not mean any confrontation. “It is about raising issues. It is trying to find a way forward,” he said.
Since the pandemic outbreak, Amarinder has been regularly hitting out at the Centre for not helping out the state with funds to fight Covid-19. At an online Idea Exchange event recently, the Punjab CM said the Centre had given Punjab only Rs 101 crore while he had already spent Rs 500 crore to combat Covid-19. He also slammed the Centre for refusing to pay the GST compensation.
On Monday, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal wrote to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and rejected both the options given by the Centre to states for GST compensation.
On the government’s stand on GST, Badal told The Indian Express, “We are not doing any politics in GST council as Sitharaman says. We have so many platforms to do politics. We have Vidhan Sabha, Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for politics. The discussion in GST council was about compensation. We are not looking at confrontation. If GOI does not have money, it can find solutions,” he said.
The state has also filed a review petition in SC on JEE-NEET entrance exam as Amarinder was vociferous in saying that Covid was peaking in the state and he would not like the children of his state to be exposed to the contagion.
Amarinder had recently brought in a resolution in Punjab Vidhan Sabha against agricultural ordinances and power reforms of the Centre. Further, during a meeting on SYL between Haryana CM and Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat a little while back, the CM minced no words when he said the state did not have a drop to spare and categorically refused to allow construction on remaining part of SYL on the plea that it could bring back dark days of terrorism in the state.
Another bone of contention between Centre and the state has been the Post Matric Scholarship Scheme for SC students. Punjab CM has repeatedly faulted the Centre for not providing money for the scholarship scheme.
After an alleged scam into the scheme rocked the state’s politics a few days back, the CM hit back at Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot for ordering an inquiry into it without waiting for the state’s Chief Secretary’s probe to end.
The state has also not fully accepted Centre’s Unlock 4.0 guidelines. While Centre asked the states to do away with curfew and lockdowns, Punjab still has weekend and night curfew. In this case, though, Punjab said that the decision to continue with restrictions was taken in consultation with Centre.
While the state does not agree with Centre on many issues, the Opposition still sticks to its accusation that the state government, despite being of the Congress party, is “towing BJP line”. Aam Aadmi Party MLA and Leader of Opposition in Vidhan Sabha, Harpal Singh Cheema, said, “All this the government has been doing is just a show-off. Internally, the government is still towing BJP line. They want to do something else and show something else. On SYL, they do not take any concrete steps in the courts and when it comes to telling the public then they start issuing statements. This is what Manpreet Badal also does. Why doesn’t he raise the GST issue in GST council?”