Nirmala Sitharaman insists on Modi flexi; why not KCR's, says Harish Rao

Nirmala Sitharaman, who is touring Telangana, has sparked a fresh feud with the state when she insisted on the flexi banner of PM Narendra Modi at a fair price shop in Kamareddy

Harish Rao

HYDERABAD: Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is touring Telangana, has sparked a fresh feud with the state when she insisted on the flexi banner of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a fair price shop (FPS) in Kamareddy district. The Union minister's comments, during her visit to a ration shop in Birkoor of the district on Friday, evoked sharp reaction from Telangana Finance Minister Harish Rao, who countered why KCR's photo should not be displayed all across the country as the head of a state that was propping up other impoverished states.

In a rather unusual reaction, being seen as unbecoming of a Union minister, Nirmala Sitharaman was furious at the absence of the Prime Minister's flexi at the FPS located within the Banswada town. She pulled up District Collector Jitesh Patel as to why Modi's flexi was not put up. Giving the IAS officer a stand-up sermone, she said that the Centre alone was bearing Rs 29 out of the Rs 35 of every kg of rice being distributed to the poor. She directed the hapless officer to display a Modi flexi by the time she visited the FPS next time.

The dressing down did not end there for Jitesh Patel. He continued to be at the receiving end after he failed to answer Sitharaman's question on the share of the Centre and the state in free ration rice distribution in Telangana. Her anger knew no bounds when the district collector told her that he was not aware of it. The Union minister then ordered him to furnish all the details within 30 minutes.

The Union Finance Minister was heavily trolled on social media platforms for her alleged unfair treatment of an IAS officer after the video went viral. But the most incisive attack came from Telangana Finance Minister Harish Rao who countered Nirmala Sitharaman's claims point by point.

"It is ridiculous to see the Union Finance Minister insisting on Prime Minister Modi's photo at a fair price shop. This is nothing but lowering the stature and dignity of a Prime Minister. BJP leaders and Union ministers, on their visit to the state, are indulging in misinformation that would even put Goebbel to shame. Sitharaman's comments contained only half-truths. The Centre's contribution to the fair price rice distribution only amounts to 50-55 per cent. While the Centre bears Rs 3 per kg, Telangana spends Rs 2. The rest of 45 per cent is being solely borne by the Telangana government. The Telangana government is spending Rs 3,610 crores for the distribution of fair price rice to the poor. So, do you expect the fair price shops to display KCR's photos?", Harish Rao shot back.

He did not mince words in saying that Telangana was one of the five states that had been propping up the finances of several impoverished states. "Telangana received Rs 1,96,400 crores as its share from the Centre even after contributing a whopping Rs 3,65,797 crores to the Centre in the form of revenues. There is a huge disparity in the state's share from the Centre and its revenue contribution to the Centre. This proves beyond doubt the contribution of Telangana in propping up other states and the country as a whole. As the representative of Telangana, will you display KCR's photos all across the country?", Harish Rao retorted.

Ready to resign if Sitharaman proves her claims on Ayushman Bharat

Harish Rao also challenged Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on her claims that Telangana did not sign up for the Centre-sponsored Ayushman Bharat health scheme. He said that he would resign from his post if Sitharaman proved her claim and wondered if she would do the same in case Telangana was already implementing the scheme.

"On February 4, 2022, the Union Health Minister stated on the floor of the Lok Sabha that Telangana was part of Ayushman Bharat. The Centre's assertion came in response to a question posed by Uttam Kumar Reddy. The Union Health Minister had also clarified that Telangana had signed up for the health scheme in May, 2018. NDA's ministers have been misleading the nation with conflicting statements inside Parliament and outside. Rs 150 crores were granted to Telangana under Ayushman Bharat for the year 2021-2022. Telangana has already spent Rs 858.50 crores for an existing scheme that is far better than Ayushman Bharat. While the central scheme benefits only 26 lakh families, the Arogyasri scheme, being implemented in Telangana, provides the cover for 90 lakh families," Harish Rao clarified.

The Telangana Health Minister demanded an unconditional apology from the Union Finance Minister for her sweeping remarks and misleading statements.

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