Tamil Nadu finance minister explains why he won’t listen to Modi on ‘freebies’

Slamming the Narendra Modi government for its newly articulated position on welfare schemes, Tamil Nadu’s finance minister, Palanivel Thiagarajan, asked why state governments should listen to the union government when it had neither constitutional authority nor stellar economic track record.

Thiagarajan made the remarks on an India Today on Wednesday. The show’s anchor, Rahul Kanwal, asked Thiagarajan what he made of Modi’s point that states should invest in welfare schemes that lead to empowerment and “not subsidiaries that take care of your immediate requirements but don’t build any capacity”.

The minister replied, “Either you should have a constitutional basis for saying what you are saying, in which case we all listen, or you must have some special expertise…when neither of these is true, why should we listen to somebody?”

He added, “The election gave me the right to do what I am supposed to do. I’m doing it well. I am outperforming the union government by a lot…We are huge net contributors to the union exchequer. Huge! Rs 1 goes from us, we hardly get 33 paise back. What more is it you want me to do?”

Previously, putting a similar question to Aam Aadmi Party’s spokesperson Jasmine Shah, Kanwal had said that in Punjab, which AAP governs, “53.3 percent is the current level of the debt to state ratio…that’s a very high level of financial stress a state like Punjab is on. Instead of cleaning up finances, making states more financially viable, in a bid to expand your footprint, you are taking Indian politics on a dangerous path.”

Shows on “freebie culture” have been the staple of primetime TV news since Modi called out “revadi” culture a few weeks ago, claiming it was “very dangerous” for the development of the country.

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