Politics On Economy

The stand taken by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the Term of Reference (ToR) of the 15th Finance Commission is no different from the opinion of his counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Puducherry, Delhi, West Bengal, Kerala and Punjab.

But Naveen is reluctant to sit with the other Chief Ministers to come to a consensus over their disapproval to the ToR. 

Though other Chief Ministers or their Finance Ministers have already sat for discussion twice, Naveen has neither joined the meeting nor did he send any representative.

What baffles the other Chief Ministers is the very motive of Naveen. He raises protest to the ToR of the National Finance Panel alone, but hesitates to join others who too are on the same line.

What does Naveen want to prove? What is wrong if he joins others for an issue which affects the State’s economy? These questions remain unanswered as Naveen hesitates to open his mouth in this regard.

Naveen had already written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appraising the Centre of the State’s opposition to the Finance Panel’s ToR. He has also admitted that the 15th Finance Commission’s ToR would adversely affect the State’s economy. However, he is not ready to strengthen the voice along with others, who echo his feelings.

What does exactly prevent Naveen from going along with other States? The reason could be purely political even as the State’s economy is heading towards a tough time. 

Doing politics is not at all bad, but politics at the cost of the State’s economy is something unacceptable.

Then what is the politics behind it?

The reason is clear. Naveen does not want to annoy the BJP led NDA government at the Centre even as his regional party claims to be maintaining equal distance from both Congress and BJP.

Joining others on the issue may give an indication that Naveen too joined the anti-BJP platform along with Chandrababu Naidu and Mamata Banerjee.
Mr.Naidu has already declared war against the NDA government and Mamata has been opposing the saffron party for years. 
By distancing from other non-BJP Chief Ministers, Naveen wants to prove that though he is opposed to the ToR of the 15thFinance Commission, he has not joined any anti-BJP platform.   
Though the reason behind Naveen’s soft corner towards NDA government is not clear, the stand taken by him has already established that unlike Mamata Banerjee or Chandrababu Naidu, he is not opposed to BJP.
Earlier, Naveen has also been successful in maintaining distance from the proposed Federal Front, which targets BJP and Modi. The Odisha Chief Minister has not attended any of the meetings held against BJP and therefore is able to maintain that Naveen is not all against BJP.
It is, however, another matter when Naveen had organized others while opposing the National Counter Terrorism Authority Act in 2013 during the UPA regime, he was supported by at least 10 States, which forced the then Manmohan Singh government to drop the idea. Naveen then could garner support of nine other States.
However, in the of 15th Finance Commission ToR, Naveen is not ready to sit with others even as he and his State feel that it will harm developing States like Odisha.

The States, which have been able to control population to a great extent, will suffer as the ToR of the 15th Finance Commission say that it will take 2011 Census figure as the base instead of 1971 Census data. While Odisha, West Bengal and many southern States have been able to bring a control on population growth, certain States in the Hindi belt have failed to achieve the goal.

The States which failed to control population will now get more allocations.

Under such circumstances, Naveen should realize that this issue cannot be handled in isolation. It requires united effort and six States have already joined hands. Therefore, there should be no hesitation to be a part of the movement against the terms.

Naveen, already a four-time Chief Minister and Chief of a regional party, should also take note of the fact that opposing a Policy of NDA Government will not be considered as BJD’s war against BJP.

How will Odisha benefit by not opposing BJP? According to Naveen himself, BJP has been instrumental is blocking flow of water in River Mahanadi.

The NDA Government too has abolished a number of Centrally Funded Schemes and changed sharing pattern in other programmes.

Therefore, this should be the appropriate time to bring to the notice of the Centre that the terms are harming the State’s interests. 

Opposition Congress, with Niranjan Patnaik at the helm, may take up the issue and tell the people that the BJD government is reluctant to take on the BJP-led Government even as the State’s economy is at stake. This 15th Finance Commission ToR issue and the State government’s role, should not give an opportunity to opposition Congress to sharpen its knife against BJD.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu also took a strong stand opposing the ToR of the 15th Finance Commission, saying that the States that have successfully controlled population growth and are “progressive States” should not lose out on central funds.

The opinion of six States expressed at a recent Conclave of Finance Ministers at Vijayawada, would be submitted to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to reframe the ToR in order to “prevent a federal imbalance of the country”. 

All the six States and Odisha have already said that it is not proper to penalise States that are in the forefront in population control. The States have also said that they will not tolerate this injustice.

These ToR are a part of the whole idea of undermining the federal structure, said a former Finance Minister and Biju Acolyte. So, Chief Minister needs to join issues with other State Governments, trying hard to raise a joint voice against National Finance Panel, which is all set to jeopardize funding pattern for the State in future, urged he.

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