Setting aside months of bitter acrimony dating back to the 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign trail, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking an appointment to bargain for relief for her debt-stressed state.
She wants to meet him with a delegation of MPs to impress upon him how desperately she needs the money to carry on development work in the state.
“I have written to the Prime Minister to consider waiver of the debt burden on us immediately. I have sought an appointment to meet him along with a delegation of my Members of Parliament to discuss this issue,” Mamata Banerjee wrote in her Facebook account on Wednesday evening.
During the UPA-II dispensation, of which she was the secondbiggest constituent for more than three years, Mamata campaigned for debt relief from the Centre — but with little success. The UPA-II government had always argued that there was no provision in the Constitution for preferential treatment being meted out to any single state. Bengal is one of the worst debt-stressed states in the country. It is groaning under a total burden of about Rs. 2.75 lakh crore. More importantly, debt-servicing requirements consume a huge amount of scarce revenue of the government, leaving little for development activities. “The deduction of about Rs. 28,000 crore each year towards debt taken by the previous government has been increasing,” the chief minister wrote.
Incidentally, just a day ago, the Centre’s decision to implement the 14th Finance Commission’s recommendations meant that, just as the other states, Bengal, too, would get additional finances. But the chief minister did not refer to the additional funds in her post. It could not have been easy for Mamata to seek a meeting with the Prime Minister, since she has, time and again, attacked Modi in the harshest of words and has often been accused of transgressing etiquette.
During the Lok Sabha poll campaign, Mamata had said at public meetings that she would tie Modi with a rope and drag him to jail in Bengal. She had also described him as a man responsible for manslaughter.
Even after Modi’s victory, when almost all chief ministers congratulated him, she had remained silent.
“We have long been pursuing with the Central Government for waiver of the huge debt burden left upon us by the previous government in West Bengal. We have waited for more than three and half years with no results.
“No other state in the country is as ‘debt-stressed’ because of the gross misrule of the previous Left Front Government for long 34 years (sic). Our state needs immediate relief from the debt burden, Mamata wrote on Facebook.