Ministers and legislators hailing from the southern regions of India convened in the nation’s capital, New Delhi, on Wednesday to voice grievances regarding what they perceive as biased allocation of federal funds by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.
Led by the chief minister of Karnataka state, the protest underscores longstanding disparities between the more affluent southern states and their economically disadvantaged northern counterparts.
The five southern states of India are governed either by regional parties or opposition entities to Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), with the upcoming protests scheduled to be spearheaded by the chief minister of Kerala on Thursday, February 8.
Bengaluru, renowned as a technological hub, serves as the capital of Karnataka, a state renowned for its substantial contribution to national tax revenues. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, known mononymously, informed demonstrators that over the past four years, Karnataka’s portion of tax funds redistributed from the central government had dwindled from 4.71% to 3.64% of the total national tax collection.
In addition to this, New Delhi had reneged on commitments regarding the allocation of grants, obstructed irrigation projects, and disregarded pleas for special funding to alleviate drought, Siddaramaiah lamented. Hailing from the primary opposition party, Congress, he criticized the federal policy of apportioning funds based on states’ populations, arguing that this system unfairly disadvantaged southern states which had effectively managed population growth.
“North Indian states did not tackle population growth,” Siddaramaiah asserted to the assembly of ministers and lawmakers gathered at Jantar Mantar, the primary protest site in New Delhi.
Protesters raised voices and brandished placards bearing slogans such as ‘Our Tax, Our Right’, and ‘Our Tax Money, Give it to us’, highlighting their demand for equitable distribution of tax revenues.
“Population control has become a curse for us. Is this not injustice?” Siddaramaiah questioned.
However, the federal government rebuffed these allegations, with Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman dismissing them as politically motivated and affirming the existence of a well-established system governing fund allocation.
On Wednesday, February 7, Modi retaliated against Siddaramaiah’s accusations, decrying the emergence of a divisive north-south narrative.
“‘Our tax, our money’—what kind of language is this? I don’t discriminate against states,” Modi retorted during parliamentary proceedings.