Virbhadra now turns to Modi for central indulgence (News Analysis)

Shimla, June 9: Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has now turned to the BJP at the centre for a a special financial package to bail out the state, which is reeling under an ever-swelling wage bill after being "refused" assistance by his own party's previous Congress government.

Political observers say the chief minister has tried his best to convince the new central leadership about the state's deteriorating financial condition after he failed to get any major bonanza from the previous Congress government.

The chief minister called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi this week and lobbied hard to take debit-ridden state out of economic inertia.

Besides demanding a special package of industrial incentives, particularly income tax exemption for five years and central excise exemption for 10 years on new industries till 2020, Virbhadra Singh raised the issue of the funding pattern of centrally sponsored schemes on uniform 90:10 pattern for all special category states, including Himachal Pradesh.

The chief minister also apprised the prime minister about underestimation of committed liabilities by the 13th Finance Commission, which capped the expenditure on salaries on the low side, which had resulted in the grim financial position.

BJP leader and former two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, ahead of Virbhadra Singh's meeting with the prime minister, missed no opportunity in taking a dig at the successive Congress governments in the state for creating the financial mess.

Analysing the financial management during the rule of the BJP and Congress governments in the state, Dhumal, who held the finance portfolio in both his stints, said the BJP government implemented the Ninth Five Year Plan (1997-2002) amounting to Rs.5,700 crore.

The total expenditure under this Plan was Rs.7,899.67 crore, which was Rs.2,199.67 crore over and above the approved Plan.

"Due to this higher expenditure in the Ninth Plan, the state got a higher allocation of Rs.4,600 crore in the Tenth Plan (2002-07), which was approved for Rs.10,300 crore by the Planning Commission," Dhumal said.

He said the Tenth Plan was implemented by the Congress government and the total expenditure was only Rs.8,493.90 crore.

"There was a shortfall of Rs.1,806 crore during the Congress government under the Tenth Plan due to which the Planning Commission only gave additional allocation of Rs.3,478 crore in the Eleventh Plan (2007-12) which was approved for Rs.13,778 crore. This increase is lower than the Tenth Plan," he said in a statement.

Hitting back at its arch rival, the Congress termed Dhumal's details as politically motivated and factually incorrect.

"The BJP government in the state, in fact, failed to present state's case before the Thirteenth Finance Commission properly and that resulted in under-estimation of committed liabilities," five cabinet ministers said in a joint statement Friday.

"While the commission recommended an average increase of 126 percent in total devolution to other states compared to the 12th Finance Commission award, the increase in case of Himachal was only 50 percent, which was the lowest in the country," the ministers, including Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri and Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma, said.

"This clearly establishes the failure of the BJP government to properly place the rightful claim of the state before the Finance Commission," they said.

"Had Himachal got equal treatment with overall increase of 126 percent for the country as a whole, it would have received an additional Rs.10,725 Crore over a period of five years between 2010 and 2015," the ministers added.

Dhumal said the 15-month government has so far focussed on registering fabricated cases against political opponents and has failed to bring quality in the education and health sectors.

Official sources said the chief minister, in a rare show of strength, took his entire cabinet Sep 9 last year to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, for the second time since assuming power in December 2012, for central indulgence but failed to get any big financial bonanza.

Virbhadra Singh, who has been credited with reforms in the education, social, infrastructure and power sectors, has served as chief minister for over 16 years.


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