Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Monday tore into the ruling BJP at the Centre over the freebies debate, alleging it was “insulting" to dub welfare schemes as freebies. Rao, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) supremo, also launched a broadside against the NDA government at the Centre, alleging it was hurting federal values, weakening states financially and also centralising powers.
KCR, as Rao is known, charged the Centre with imposing enormous burden on the poor and middle classes by imposing taxes on various products, including milk and construction of graveyards. Wading into the row over freebies, the Chief Minister said, “people’s welfare is the primary responsibility of the governments." “It is blame-worthy that the Centre, without properly fulfilling that responsibility, is insulting by calling welfare schemes as freebies," Rao said.
Prime Minister Narednra Modi had recently said freebies are a spoke in India’s effort to become self-reliant and also a burden on taxpayer and criticised some opposition parties for engaging in the politics of freebies. Further, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had hit out at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for giving a “perverse twist" to the debate on freebies, saying the AAP leader putting education and health in that category is an attempt to create fear in the minds of the poor.
In his Independence Day address after hoisting the national flag at the historic Golconda Fort here, Rao said the makers of the nation’s Constitution put in place a federal structure as they wanted the Centre and states together to lead the march of progress. “The present Central government in Delhi is hurting federal values. The Centre is indulging in conspiracies that weaken the states financially, as if cutting the branch on which one is seated," he said.
He alleged the states are supposed to get 41 per cent share in revenue accruing through taxes collected by the Centre, but the latter was acquiring income indirectly by imposing cess instead of taxes to reduce the states’ share. Through this, the Centre is reducing the states’ share of income by 11.4 per cent in 2022-23, he said.
The Centre was causing injustice to states by providing only 29.6 per cent share as against the 41 per cent, he said. As if that is not enough, the Centre was also imposing various restrictions hurting the freedom of the states in the economy, he charged.
The Central government which talks about the ideals of cooperative federalism is, in reality, indulging in centralisation of powers, he claimed. It is thrusting upon states, decisions taken on issues in the concurrent list without consultation, he alleged, citing the case of three contentious farm laws which have now been withdrawn.
He also hit out at the NDA regime for allegedly trying to portray farmers who had protested in Delhi against the erstwhile legislations, as betrayers of the nation. The Prime Minister had to finally apologise to farmers, he claimed. He alleged that due to the shortcomings in the Centre’s management, the country’s economic growth has slowed down, inflation was rising, value of the rupee was declining and unemployment growing in the country.
Those in power at the Centre, to hide their failures, are indulging in tactics of dividing people with hate politics, he further alleged. Highlighting the nation’s unity in diversity, Rao claimed “those in constitutional posts are indulging in fascist attacks" to hurt India’s peaceful coexistence.
Destructive forces are trying to foment communal trouble in Telangana and to hurt peace and development, he alleged. Rao said it was the responsibility of every Telangana citizen to safeguard the ‘Ganga Jamuna tehzeeb’ (fusion of Hindu-Muslim cultures) in the state.
Referring to criticism of his government over high debts, he said the state’s debt was over Rs 2.25 lakh crore in 2019-20. Telangana inherited a debt of Rs 75,577 crore in 2014 when the state was formed. The loan taken by the state government was thus Rs 1.49 lakh crore which was used to build projects and provision of infrastructure, he said. Rao, who highlighted numerous welfare schemes and progress achieved in Telangana during the last eight years of his rule, said the state’s revenue rose from Rs 62,000 crore in 2014-15 to Rs 1.84 lakh crore by 2021.
Telangana emerged as a mighty economic powerhouse in a short period of eight years, he stated.