Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao on Monday lashed out at the Centre over its special economic package of Rs 20 lakh crore, accusing it of “blackmailing” state governments and “holding a knife to our neck” during the coronavirus crisis, NDTV reported.

Rao claimed that the contours of the package violated the spirit of cooperative federalism. He mocked the conditions set by the Centre for increasing the states’ borrowing limits. The chief minister accused the Centre of trying to dominate the states.

Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had on May 17 presented the fourth tranche of measures to boost the economy amid a nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus pandemic. Among other things, she had announced that the Centre has decided to increase the borrowing limit under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act, 2003, from 3% to 5%. However, she made it conditional upon several factors, including universalisation of ration cards, the state’s ease of doing business reforms, power distribution statistics and urban local body revenues.

“This is not federalism,” Rao said at a press conference. “The cooperative federalism mentioned by the Prime Minister [Narendra Modi] is bogus, a farce. We are also running a government...We are not subordinates to the Centre. State governments have more responsibilities and duties than the Centre, it is a fact.”

The chief minister also labelled the package as a “blatant fraud” and “100% bogus”. “This is pure cheating. Betrayal,” he said, according to PTI. “Jugglery of numbers. All gas. The Centre has reduced its own prestige.”

Rao wondered whether by demanding reforms in some sectors before allowing states to borrow more, the Narendra Modi-led government was doing charity. “It is pathetic that the Centre should insist on states implementing the reforms in four sectors to qualify for increased borrowing in these times of pandemic,” he said. The chief minister added that while he was not against reforms, the manner in which the Centre sought to carry them out was wrong.

BJP condemns chief minister’s remarks

The Telangana unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party attacked Rao for his remarks, calling them “highly objectionable”, IANS reported. State BJP Spokesperson K Krishna Saagar Rao said the party “strongly objects to the derogatory language used by KCR on the Centre’s timely initiative”. “The statements are distasteful and language is unacceptable,” he said. Krishna Saagar Rao claimed that the chief minister lashed out at the Centre to cover up for his own failures.

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