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Last Updated Monday August 10 2020 01:08 AM IST

Siddaramaiah's turn to stoke north versus south debate

Sachidananda Murthy
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 Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has presented 11 full budgets through his terms: File photo

Siddaramaiah is trying to kindle the north versus south debate on political favouritism and discrimination at the fag end of his term.

The Karnataka chief minister had to contend with the north-dominated government of Narendra Modi for four out of five years, and is now facing an onslaught of allegations and claims by BJP leaders.

Amit Shah and other leaders have claimed that tens of thousands of crores have been given to Karnataka by the central government after Modi came to power and accused the chief minister of showing no gratitude.

Unlike the UPA government which had heavy representation from the southern states, the NDA government has had five cabinet ministers (among whom Venkaiah Naidu became vice president and Ashok Gajapati Raju resigned recently), two ministers of state with independent charge (including K J Alphons) and three ordinary ministers of state (one of them Y S Chaudhury) from the region.

But Siddaramaiah, who has been very combative against the BJP, has argued that his state has given more to the central kitty by way of taxes, and what it has received as share of central shares is a lesser amount.

He has said his state has been the model of fiscal discipline (as finance minister and chief minister, he has presented 11 full budgets).

As the war of words increased Siddaramaiah has now said the southern states are giving more than their share to the centre and it is the northern states which are getting the lions share of central funding.

He is upset that southern states are being discriminated against by the centre.

But till recently, Siddaramaiah had not shown much interest in affairs beyond his state.

He rarely attended the chief ministers conferences convened by the centre, and even avoided attending the GST Council though he has held the finance portfolio for the last five years.

Instead he chose to send his agriculture minister Krishna Bhyre Gowda to represent the state for GST discussions.

However, the official team from Karnataka had earned praise for helping put the GST architecture, because Karnataka had one of the efficient VAT systems in the country.

The chief minister's visits to Delhi were mainly to meet the Congress leadership of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Ahmed Patel.

After a few initial meetings with Modi, Siddaramaiah found out that the prime minister was referring his requests to concerned ministers.

Even his request for an appointment for an all-party delegation on the Mahadayi dispute with Goa was not encouraged by prime minister's office.

These miffed the proud chief minister so much so that he curtailed his requests.

Now, Siddaramaiah has spoken about chief ministers from the southern states coming together to oppose the discrimination by the central government, composed mostly of those from the north.

He has found a new friend in N Chandrababu Naidu of Andhra Pradesh, who has left the NDA protesting over the step-motherly treatment to his state.

Among the six chief ministers in the south, politically Siddaramaiah can expect support from fellow Congressman V Narayanaswamy of Puducherry, Naidu and Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala.

But Tamil Nadu's E Palaniswamy is very much cosy with BJP government at the centre, while K Chandrashekar Rao of Telengana has been critical of both the BJP and the Congress.

However, it may be better for Siddaramaiah to use the anti-centre rhetoric in the ongoing Karnataka election campaign, as an emphatic win will prove the allegation true.

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