Chandigarh, Jun 14: Stepping up pressure for a debt relief package, Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mukul Roy today said West Bengal was not "begging" and only raising a "justified demand" with the Centre to help overcome the financial crisis faced by the state.
"We are annually paying interest of Rs 21,000 crore while our income is Rs 22,000 crore. If we ask (the Centre for help)...this is not begging," Roy told reporters here.
Blaming the Left, which ruled West Bengal for over three decades, he said the present financial problem faced by the state was an inherited one. TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had accused the Centre of not helping her government overcome the financial crisis and had sought a three-year moratorium on central loan interest repayment.
"This is not begging. Bengal is not begging...this is our demand," Roy asserted while replying to a question. He was speaking on the sidelines of inaugurating TMC's northern region office, which will cater to the states of Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K and Union Territory Chandigarh.
West Bengal has a debt burden of over Rs 2 lakh crore. Roy maintained that their demand should not be linked with the Presidential election in the country. Roy, however, evaded questions pertaining to the Presidential election. "As far as Presidential elections are concerned, I have not been authorised by my party to speak a single word," was his refrain.
The Minister, who was accompanied by Rajya Sabha MP and TMC leader KD Singh, said, "Whatever you ask (regarding Presidential election), I will not answer. My leaders are in Delhi. I am a disciplined soldier of my party...I have been instructed not to speak a single word. As far as your asking for my personal opinion on the issue, it does not arise."
Asked about not attending the Cabinet meeting, he said, "There was no railway issue, that's why I did not attend".