FM steals Jaya?s cycles

The Congress leader said that contrary to the AIDMK's claims, the Centre, and not the state, was funding the scheme to furnish poor students with cycles, reports GC Shekhar.

india Updated: Apr 16, 2006 02:03 IST
GC Shekhar

Jayalalitha's much vaunted free cycle scheme, on which the Tamil Nadu chief minister hoped to ride back to power, has developed a puncture. Thanks to Union finance minister P Chidambaram.

The Congress leader, in town to campaign for the upcoming polls, told a press conference on Saturday that contrary to the AIDMK supremo's claims, it was the Centre and not the state that was funding the scheme to furnish poor students with free cycles.

"Between February 2002 and January 2004, the Centre has given Rs 31 crores for the free cycles for high school kids from under the Additional Central Assistance," he told reporters. When it was pointed out that the allocation had been sanctioned by the NDA regime he retorted that what mattered was the funds came from the Centre and not who was in power.

Jayalalithaa had recently claimed that the scheme was being financed entirely by the state which had so far spent Rs 113 crores. In an interview to Jaya TV the Chief Minister had said she planned to expand the base of the scheme that now covered only Class 12 students.

If unseating the Amma from her favourite cycle was not enough, the finance minister sought to prick Jayalalitha's welfare balloon too. He alleged the AIADMK government had left large central allocations for development and welfare schemes unused. Incidentally, welfare is one of the significant poll planks of the Jayalalitha regime.

"The state has not utilized even a single rupee of the Rs780 crore given to TN under the Accelerated Rural Water Management programme whereas AP managed to spend the last minute allocations," the Union Cabinet member said and listed various other schemes where funds had remained unused.

"It is up to the voters of Tamil Nadu to decide if they want a chief Minister who does not want to co-operate with the Centre, refuses to respect the authority of the Prime Minister and who treats the state legislature as her party's general council? Essentially, she is an anti-democrat," he said.

First Published: Apr 16, 2006 02:03 IST