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‘Congress has been reduced to a fringe party’

India needs a good solid national party and Congress is failing this country on that, says Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman in an exclusive interview with TNIE.

Nirmala SitharamanNEW DELHI: The Congress has been reduced to a fringe party, along with people who shout separatist slogans, and they’re happy to be there, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in an interaction with TNIE. She was responding to a question on the BJP’s limited presence in the southern states.

An animated Sitharaman, who is known for her plain speaking, did not take kindly to the notion that BJP has not been able to make inroads into the South. She was quick to point out that the Congress, another national party, has been equally ineffective in southern states – especially in Tamil Nadu, where the Congress has been playing second fiddle to the DMK.

Where is Congress in Tamil Nadu, where is it in Andhra (Pradesh) or Odisha, asked the Finance Minister, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Karnataka.

On southern states like Kerala and Karnataka moving the Supreme Court over fund transfers from the Centre, she said the Centre has not meted out differential treatment to but opposition-ruled states are politicising a non-issue.

Kerala has moved SC against the Centre’s cap on its borrowing capacity, while Karnataka has accused the Centre of not transferring drought relief fund.

On Kerala, the FM said changes in the borrowing rules were brought in after the CAG raised concern over non-budgetary borrowings by certain states, and that the Supreme Court has taken note of this. On Karnataka, she said the funds would be released once the Election Commission gives a go-ahead.

She also sought to demolish the argument that states contributing higher to the tax pool are getting only a fraction of that in return from the Centre. “These are separatist kinds of arguments,” said the FM.

Despite the criticism of electoral bonds after the recent apex court judgment, she said electoral bonds were an improvement over the past system of electoral funding.

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