It was lions vs minorities at the Planning Commission office on Thursday.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi accused the Centre of not providing a single penny for conservation of “national pride” lions while spending Rs 200 crore (Rs 2 billion) on tigers. Planning Commission member Sayeeda Hamid roared back, saying there was not a single scheme for the welfare of minorities in the state’s annual plan.
The Gir forest reserve in Gujarat is the only place in the country where Asiatic lion is found.
Modi was at the panel’s office to finalise the annual plan for 2009-10, but, it seems, both sides were well-prepared for a battle of figures.
The CM came well-equipped. He played a documentary film to highlight state’s high economic growth rate and low fiscal deficit. As the reel played, he got down to the real “problem” and accused the Centre of not providing money for Gujarat-specific projects.
Narmada, which provides water to four states, should be declared national river like Ganga, he demanded, while seeking Centre’s approval for Daman-Ganga-Sabarmati river linking project.
The Centre had not declared the coastal roads in his state as part of the national highway project as was done in rest of the country, he said.
Hamid was quick to point the state’s indifference towards Muslims. She accused the state of failing to utilise the Centre’s pre-matric scholarship scheme and providing relief to women fighting domestic violence and crimes.
Panel’s Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia ended the fireworks by announcing a plan size of Rs 23,500 crore (Rs 23 billion), an increase of 12 per cent since last fiscal.