New points of convergence: Opposition parties close in on Air India divestment, finance panel issues

On Air India’s disinvestment, the TMC alleges that given the bid conditions only one Indian airline operator may be eligible to bid for it.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Published: April 3, 2018 2:40:51 am
air india, air india flights, air india losses, air india disinvestment, New points of convergence seem to be emerging on the issues of Air India disinvestment and the 15th Finance Commission.

While consensus on an impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra appears to elude opposition parties, with the Trinamool Congress (TMC) yet to make up its mind, new points of convergence seem to be emerging on the issues of Air India disinvestment and the 15th Finance Commission.

On Monday, the TMC came up with calculations that showed adoption of the 2011 census for population-based devolution would make Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal the biggest losers among states — each of these states stood to lose approximately Rs 20,000 crore each year, according to the party.

The matter, TMC national spokesman Derek O’Brien said, will come up for discussion when West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee visits Chennai later this month.

In a series of tweets on the commission on Sunday, Siddaramaiah, Chief Minister of the poll-bound, Congress-governed Karnataka, wrote: “About increase from 88583cr to 219506cr, you are comparing 2 different periods. Due to inflation & tax growth,revenues rise by 10-15% every year. Plus devolution % was changed from 32 to 42%. But center reduced its share of central schemes. So, it is an apple to orange comparison.”

On Air India’s disinvestment, the TMC alleges that given the bid conditions only one Indian airline operator may be eligible to bid for it. The party and the Congress are in talks for a joint opposition against the divestment move, even as the matter is being examined by the O’Brien-chaired Parliamentary Standing Committee for Transport, Tourism and Culture and voices of 15,000 AI employees are still being heard by several associations.

“We have given notices in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha on Air India,” the TMC Rajya Sabha leader said. “Our view is that this is a scam in the making. First, the valuation needs to be right. Second, conditions given for bidding are such that only one airline — Indigo — will be able to bid.”

Through much of Friday O’Brien was “discussing” with former Union minister Manish Tewari on Twitter the matter of issuing a contempt/privilege notice against the government for disinvestment decision even as the standing committee examined it. On Monday, although O’Brien declined to comment on the issue, sources said the option is very much on the table. The TMC on Monday morning organised a protest in front of Parliament on the issue.

On the Finance Commission, O’Brien said: “Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal will each lose Rs 20,000 crore because of the unilateral decision to change the population base year to 2011 (instead of the earlier 1971). This is anti-federal. The biggest gainers of this decision will be Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh (all under NDA).”

In addition, he said, there are several “problematic clauses” in the terms of reference — “the Centre has been given sweeping powers on taxations, for example.”

DMK working president M K Stalin has already flagged the issue of 15th Finance Commission in a letter to other chief ministers, and Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac has also spoken about the issue. Kerala has called a meeting of finance ministers of southern states on April 10 to discuss it.

On the impeachment motion, although Banerjee had said during her visit to Delhi last week that her party will back any decision of the other opposition parties, the TMC is yet to make up its mind and party MPs have not signed the motion.

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement