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South vs North: Not biased against any region, says PM Narendra Modi in Chennai over money sharing row

CHENNAI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his government is committed to cooperative federalism. His comment came at an event in Chennai, and appeared to be an attempt to douse the rising flames of discontent in the South over the way the Centre shares money with state governments. Modi’s visit to Chennai has been met with black flag protests, a huge black protest baloon, and with #ModiGoBack trending on social media.

PM Modi dismissed the concerns being raised by southern political leaders that his government’s decisions would punish the southern states for successfully controlling their population growths. “A baseless allegation is being made about the Terms of Reference of the 15th Finance Commission, being biased against certain states or a particular region,” he said.

“The Union Government has suggested to the Finance Commission to consider incentivizing States who have worked on population control. Thus, a state like Tamil Nadu, which has devoted a lot of effort, energy and resources towards population control would certainly benefit,” he added, without offering details on how the southern states would be incentivised to make up for their loss of revenue because of the move.

“The Union government is committed to cooperative federalism. Our mantra is ‘sabka saath, sabka vikas’. Let us work together to build a new India that would make our freedom fighters proud,” Modi said.

The Modi government has been faced with a consolidation of voices from all the southern states against its decision to ask the 15th Finance Commission to start using the population figures of 2011 Census as a basis for sharing money with state governments. Southern political leaders have said the move would reduce the money share of their states and instead incentivise the failure of northern states like Uttar Pradesh for failing to control population growth.

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah had gone so far as to say that the South is subsidising the North. Similar, if not as direct, statements have come from Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu and Telangana CM Chandrasekhar Rao. Their contention has been that their state earns more tax revenue for the Centre than it gets in return.

DMK leader MK Stalin had written to the CMs of 10 states – not just the southern ones – who would be adversely impacted by the Modi government’s move. The finance ministers of most of the southern states had also met in Thiruvananthapuram to discuss their concerns over the Centre’s unilateral decision on this front.

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