Chennai: The mouthpiece of Tamil Nadu’s ruling DMK, Murasoli, Saturday criticised Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for her “your Tamil Nadu” comment, made last week in Parliament.
Replying to a debate on price rise in the Lok Sabha on 1 August, Sitharaman said that although the Congress has repeatedly accused the BJP government of favouring Ambani and Adani, “unga naatla, Tamil naatla (in your state Tamil Nadu), 59 MoUs have been signed for Rs 35,000 crore with Adani for setting up data centres”.
The Congress is an ally of the DMK in Tamil Nadu.
In an editorial in Murasoli, the DMK said Sitharaman had “lost her temper to the extent of saying ‘your Tamil Nadu'”.
Not all those who speak Tamil are Tamilians, the editorial said. Sitharaman was born and raised in Tamil Nadu and speaks fluent Tamil.
“Why are you so agitated by ‘our’ Tamil Nadu,” the editorial said, asking Sitharaman to maintain “composure” to figure out the “truth about the country’s finances”.
“Funds can be sourced later. Only if she gains composure, will she understand the financial position of the BJP regime. Instead, if she continues to be agitated, she will not realise the truth,” the editorial read.
The editorial referred to last month’s protests by rice-mill owners and said it was not just in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, but such agitations also happened in “BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka”.
Rice-mill owners had held protests across India, including Tamil Nadu, against the central government’s decision to bring packaged food items, including rice, under the 5 per cent Goods and Services Tax (GST) slab.
The editorial said rice-mill owners were protesting against the “30 per cent hike in the price of rice across India”. While the cost increased in other parts of the country, the editorial said prices did not increase in Tamil Nadu “as it is a major producer of rice”.
“The production was high due to a streamlined public distribution system and free distribution of rice and since the land under irrigation was extensive,” the editorial added.
“If we question it, the minister talks about the exemption of GST on crematorium, burial, mortuary, and funeral services. It shows why she was appointed finance minister. She has to shamelessly do what has been said,” the DMK said.
Last week, Sitharaman accused the DMK government of keeping the prices of milk and related products above the government-prescribed rates and then blaming the Union government for it.
‘Parliament’s not a chorus group’
There will be questions and the ruling party must answer them, the Murasoli editorial said.
“Parliament’s a place to debate,” the editorial added. “When there are questions thrown to you, answer them instead of passing the buck… Those who are there are not members of a chorus group to talk alike.”
The editorial also sought to counter the minister’s claim that “robust” GST collection meant that the Indian economy was stable.
“If people are paying taxes properly, it means the people tolerate you and not that the Indian economy is stable,” the editorial said. “If many aspirants write NEET, does it mean that everyone likes the examination?”
Tax remittance and economic health are two separate issues, the editorial said.
“They claim to have collected more taxes from Tamil Nadu. Does she imply that all industrialists in TN have accepted the GST figures?” the editorial asked.
‘A lot of half-truths and one whole lie’
Tamil Nadu Finance Minster P. Thiaga Rajan (PTR) claimed Tamil Nadu was often targeted by the central government because the state was “performing well” and represented the last bastion of states’ rights and good economic performance in this country.
In a series of videos that he shared on Twitter on 4 August, PTR, as he’s more commonly known, called Sitharaman’s comments “a lot of half-truths” and “one whole lie”.
Delayed due to prior commitments & making both English & Tamil versions
Truth out today:
1) 3 step process on 5% GST (as Hon. Union FM herself stated OUTSIDE the house)
2) GST is NOT truly Federal
3) VAT on Petrol & Diesel
4) DMK (& others😅) Poll Promises
5) Why Target TN? https://t.co/zNe7TpH9yP
— Dr P Thiaga Rajan (PTR) (@ptrmadurai) August 3, 2022
“This year, the Union government’s fiscal deficit in the budget is 7 per cent. Ours (Tamil Nadu’s) was closer to 3.5 per cent. Inflation in this country is almost 8 per cent. Ours is closer to 5 per cent,” he’s heard saying in the videos, adding that Tamil Nadu had fared better than the Union government even in terms of GST revenues.
He also claimed that “one hundred per cent” of the GST Council’s agenda was decided by the Union government “without consulting the states” and that, with every finance commission, Tamil Nadu is “getting less money and has to spend it the way the Union government deems fit”.
“If this isn’t colonialism, what is it? So they (the Union government) don’t like people who stand up to colonialism. I can’t think of any other reason why,” he’s heard saying in the videos.
“In Tamil Nadu, we have a functional government that is showing compassion, social justice, and yet delivers superior returns,” he said.
The BJP, PTR said in the videos, has either won elections in most states in India or gained power “through backdoors by toppling governments or buying MLAs”.
“Very few states have been able to retain their independence, out of which Tamil Nadu is one of those that have also been able to perform well economically,” he said.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)