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The Loss of Faith


Akhilesh Yadav, who started as a votary of the newly formed Niti Aayog, has lately been left disillusioned, Rajendar Kumar reports from Lucknow
RAJENDAR KUMAR | Issue Dated: July 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Akhilesh Yadav | Niti Aayog |

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was of the opinion that the national agenda for the development of the nation will be jointly decided by the Centre and the state. This idea of his found resonance with a lot of people, including Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. It seems he bought the rhetoric and was of the opinion that the states will be consulted in policy formulation, and that the agenda will be made in a way that it remained unbiased. This included the ability to complete the projects in the prescribed timeframe and the confidence that proper and ample funds would be released. When Akhilesh welcomed the creation of Niti Aayog, he had given his opinion on these matters to the Prime Minister, apart from demands and expectations of Uttar Pradesh.

But all of this has come to a naught. It seems Akhilesh’s expectations that the Niti Aayog and its functionaries will take Uttar Pradesh’s interests into consideration has not been realized. The disappointment in this regard was expressed by the Chief Minister himself during a public meeting in Balia last month. Coming down heavily on the Niti Aayog and its way of functioning, Yadav stressed that the creation of the body has harmed the interests of Uttar Pradesh rather than serving it. He threw a figure of Rs 9,000 crores, which he believes that the state has been wrongly robbed of. He also revealed that while he was assured that the state will get an increased share from national revenues, this has not been realized.

“The body has deliberately ignored the grievances of the state and will end up as a controversial body,” maintained Shahid, spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party.

Akhilesh Yadav is known for holding himself back while criticizing the Centre in general and Prime Minister Modi in particular. He has been very cautious in opening any front against the government, primarily because he has the interests of the state in mind. He is believed to be of the opinion that taking on the Central Government only hampers the developmental prospects of the state. And that is why full-frontal attacks should be avoided. But it is evident now that he has also been pushed beyond the limits on the issue of Niti Aayog and has fired the first volley. The real or perceived loss of Rs 9,000 crores has stung him hard enough to do this. Spokesperson Rajendra Chaudary also revealed that Akhilesh Yadav is all set to take the fight a notch above and make this an electoral issue for the upcoming Assembly Polls.

He further revealed that the Chief Minister had put his opinions across in the inaugural meeting of the governing council of Niti Aayog, that the Centre should not see the requirements of every state through a single prism. He had also maintained that the Centre must provide more assistance to the states in accordance with the spirit of the federal structure. Akhilesh Yadav stressed on the need of differentiating between different provinces on the basis of their individual requirements. He had added that when the demand of various states are different, why is the treatment meted out to them the same?  

Officers accompanying the CM underlined that such issues should not be left on the whims of the members. Decisions must take into considerations factors like poverty, backwardness and population.

Other suggestions provided by the state included setting up a provision where the Central Government had to bear 90 percent of the cost of developmental projects initiated by the state. Akhilesh Yadav categorically said in the meeting that flagship projects like “Make in India, “Digital India” and “Swachh Bharat” etc must get 90 percent of their funding from the Central Government. This would have considerably lessened the burden of the states.

He was also of the opinion that other states should be consulted in this matter and that the final decision must reflect this consultation.

Navin Chandra Bajpai, Deputy Chairman of the UP State Planning Commission, was also present in the inaugural meeting of the governing council. He has also served as the Chief Secretary of the Uttar Pradesh government. He is considered close to the Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav. Bajpai is said to have prepared the suggestions that were later proposed by the Chief Minister.

Allotment of funds on the basis of the backwardness of a state and its poverty level were the mainstays of these suggestions. It was pretty evident then that if these criteria would be followed, Uttar Pradesh’s share in the fund would see a marked jump. This also included a demand for an increase in the electricity supply from the Centre’s quota. Other suggestions included making the strict guidelines for the central government funded projects a tad more flexible. It was opined that because of stringent guidelines laid down by the Central Government in the implementation of certain projects, only a few of the states ultimately reaped the benefits. Making the norms flexible or less stringent would bring other states too in the benefit ambit. Yadav also advocated the continuity of Five Year Plans, adding that states must be taken into confidence before the allotment for the next five years was made. It was also suggested that changes made in the program every now and then only make it cumbersome.

It is now evident that none of these suggestions were implemented in spite of a clear proposal. Yadav is of the opinion that Prime Minister Modi failed to take Uttar Pradesh’s interests in consideration. If that was not enough, the Centre discontinued all the projects that could not meet strict guidelines; while in some other Centre sponsored projects, the state’s share of funding was further increased, putting additional burden on the state’s exchequer.

Talking to TSI, Professor Arvind Mohan of Lucknow University said, “Uttar Pradesh has suffered significantly from this decision by the Central Government. Niti Aayog was supposed to keep the states’ interests in consideration. Evidently, this has not been followed. The Chief Minister’s assessment of loss figure of Rs 9000 crores is professionally calculated. Niti Aayog can still salvage its image if it finds a way to compensate this loss.”

The issue of perceived or real loss of Rs 9000 Crores has started to find traction in the state's politics. Akhilesh Yadav himself has been seen quoting this in his public meetings. The cautious approach of the past of not taking the Central government head on, has evidently been shelved.

Yadav also never forgets to mention that while Uttar Pradesh has given the most number of Members of Parliament to BJP, the latter has gone on to refuse the state its honest share.

Explaining how they reached this figure, spokesperson Chaudhary says, “The Central Government changed the formula that was used to decide the quantum of the allotted fund. This was done without taking state governments into confidence. This has spiked the amount of money that states need to shell out now."

Officers from state planning commission also maintain that according to the recommendations of the 14th Financial Commission, the state’s devolution has been increased from the previous 32 percent to the current 42 percent. But the weightage given to forest cover has adversely affected Uttar Pradesh’s calculation. The total loss, ergo, is to the tune of Rs. 9000 crores. The gloves are definitely off. The issue will be at the forefront in the next elections.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017