The Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) has accused the Modi government of “motivated politics’’ after Telangana was singled out in a presentation by the Centre on states that had done borrowings in excess of the permitted limit as per the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act.
TRS floor leader in the Lok Sabha Nama Nageshwara Rao said the Modi government was targeting Telangana by making “false accusations”, even as the Centre had denied aid to the TRS government.
Asserting that Telangana’s borrowings were “not as bad as the Centre is trying to portray”, Rao said: “The BJP wants to show that the financial situation of Telangana is alarming. It is doing this for politically motivated reasons. The BJP government at the Centre has not given any financial assistance to Telangana but claims that it has funded many welfare schemes, which is not true. It has also refused to purchase paddy from the state.”
The TRS believes the actual reason behind this is to help the BJP project itself as the only answer to Telangana’s “financial mess due to bad planning”, and to scare people that the freebies under the K Chandrashekar Rao-led government would stop once the money dries up.
The BJP has been successful in making inroads into Telangana, and hopes to press its advantage in the 2023 state elections, with the Congress struggling to mount a challenge. The BJP currently has three MPs and three MLAs in the state, having won two Assembly seats in bypolls. In December 2020, the BJP made a stunning debut in the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation results, winning just seven wards less than 55.
However, the Centre’s presentation, on July 19, carried some truth. The public debt of Telangana in financial year 2022-23 is projected to be Rs 3.29 lakh crore, just a little less than sister state Andhra Pradesh’s (which also found a mention in the Centre’s presentation). This shows a jump from Rs 2.85 lakh crore in 2021-22; Rs 2.44 lakh crore in 2020-2021; and Rs 2.05 lakh crore in 2019-2020.
Telangana Finance Minister T Harish Rao claimed the state maintains “strong fiscal discipline”. “Telangana’s borrowings are within the FRBM limits of 3.5%. We maintain a tight fiscal fist,’’ he said.
On the paddy issue particularly, the TRS has been trying to push the blame onto the Centre. After encouraging farmers to grow paddy through incentives, and landing up with a bumper crop, far exceeding demand, it has been urging the Centre to acquire the same.
On Wednesday, Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution Piyush Goyal accused Telangana of not distributing additional rations of 5 kg rice since April under the PMGKAY, “despite reminders”. “They have taken away the rights of the poor. It is a failed government in the state of Telangana,” he said.
Officials in Telangana contest this, saying they had not stopped distribution of the additional rice but that there was a delay. The rice for June was distributed recently, and for July would be distributed in a few days, an official said.
TRS parliamentary leader K Keshav Rao said the entire presentation by the Centre was aimed at showing not just Telangana but all non-BJP states in a poor light. (Among the states mentioned in the Centre’s presentation were Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu).
On the presentation talking about Telangana’s debt being 23% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP), Rao said this was lesser than almost all other states. The Centre’s own borrowing was about 60% of the GDP, he said.
Andhra Pradesh Finance Minister Buggana Rajendranath asserted that the state was “one of the best in the country in terms of low fiscal deficit”.
TRS MP Sabha Nama Nageshwara Rao accused the Modi government of withholding funds to states. “Non-BJP governments are forced to beg for funds due to them from the Centre,’’ he said.
Telangana BJP chief Bandi Sanjay Kumar said the TRS government should not see everything through the political lens and concentrate on managing the state’s finances. “The Telangana government is finding it difficult to even pay salaries now. From a revenue surplus state in 2014-15, we are now facing a revenue deficit. The government is finding it difficult to find funds for schemes which are riddled with corruption. The Centre is only cautioning all the states, including Telangana, about the state of their finances. It is not targeting them,’’ he said.