The Congress government in Karnataka, led by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, on Wednesday launched the “Chalo Delhi” protest in the national capital’s Jantar Mantar area, opposing the Centre’s “financial injustice” towards the southern state.

Karnataka has been at loggerheads with the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government over devolution of tax funds, non-receipt of pending funds to implement drought relief measures and the Centre denying permission for irrigation and potable water-related projects in the state, among other matters.

Siddaramaiah and Deputy Chief Minister DK Shivakumar, along with ministers and Congress MLAs, participated in the protest.

State minister Satish Jarkiholi on Wednesday alleged that the Centre owes the Karnataka government more than Rs 1 lakh crore, reported ANI.

“Karnataka is number two as far as tax collection is concerned, Maharashtra is number one,” ANI quoted Siddaramaiah as saying during the protest. “This year Karnataka is contributing more than Rs 4.3 lakh crores as tax... If we collect Rs 100 as tax and give it to the Government of India, we are only getting Rs 12 to 13 back, that is our share.”

On Monday, during the Budget Session of Parliament, Congress’ Lok Sabha leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury cited Karnataka’s example while questioning the Union government why southern India states ruled by Opposition parties were being deprived of their dues by the Centre.

In response, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that political interests do not come in the way of the states receiving funds from the Centre. “This apprehension that some states are being discriminated against is a politically-vitiated narrative,” she said.

Sitharaman also suggested that the Congress government in Karnataka was incurring expenses that its own Budget could not sustain.

The Union finance minister’s remarks followed that of Congress MP DK Suresh, who had criticised the interim Budget presented on February 1, saying that southern states will be forced to demand a separate country if the Centre does not provide them their rightful share of taxes.

“Today, if we see the share of taxes distributed, North India is getting more,” Suresh had said. “From us [Karnataka] more than Rs 4 lakh crore is collected every year under various taxes. How much are we getting back? If it is not addressed in the 16th Finance Commission, then people of South India have to raise their voice.”

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