Launching a tirade against the BJP-led Union government, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday said the Centre should do away with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime if it is unable to clear the dues it owed to the state.
Banerjee wondered if she would have to "beg" to get the dues cleared.
Addressing a rally in the tribal-dominated Belpahari area of the Jhargram district, she said the BJP-led government must either make the payment or the party must step down from the seat of power.
"They are not releasing funds under the MNREGA scheme. The BJP has to step down from power if it does not clear our dues. The Centre must scrap GST if it is can’t clear the state's dues ('Jodi amader bokeya na dey, tahole bondo kore dik GST').
"They are not doing us any favour by giving us GST dues; it is people's money that they have taken through GST," she said at the birth anniversary programme of tribal freedom fighter Birsa Munda.
Banerjee said that she had also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and raised the matter.
"We had agreed on implementing the GST; we thought the Centre would clear our dues. But now the Centre is taking away all money collected as GST but not giving us our dues. I had met the Prime Minister and requested him, but nothing moved forward. Are we supposed to beg for it?
"Why should we pay GST if the Centre is not clearing our dues? If the Centre can't give us the money, we can also stop paying GST. (Amrao tho bondho kore dite pari, keno GST tax debo?) The country is for the people, not for politicians. This is not BJP's money," she said.
Listing out schemes, "under which funds have been withheld", Banerjee said the Union government is constitutionally bound to pay the state for the 100-day work scheme.
"I would like to tell the central government that releasing funds for the 100-day work scheme is a constitutional norm. The Centre must pay; it is not an obligation, but a compulsion as the law has been passed by both Houses of the Parliament," she said.
Hitting out at Bengal BJP leadership for asserting that it would ensure the Centre stopped fund flow to the state, Banerjee sought to know if that money was "personal property" of saffron party leaders.
Later, interacting with the locals, Banerjee claimed that shortage of central funds was the primary reason for the piped water project under Jal Jeevan Mission to have come to a halt.
"By 2024, all the houses were to get piped drinking water. But the Centre has stopped giving funds, which is why the project has come to a halt. Once they pay, we will start implementing it. We are fighting against the injustice meted out to us by the Centre," she said.
Meanwhile, reacting to Banerjee's allegations, BJP leader Rahul Sinha said fund flow was stopped as the TMC government failed to submit utilisation certificates on the money spent under MNREGA.
"Let the state government first submit the utilization certificate for the funds received earlier; only then it will start receiving funds again," Sinha said.
Earlier in the day, Banerjee had tweeted that Munda taught people the importance of respecting and protecting indigenous rights.
"I pay my humble respects to 'Dharti Aba', brave revolutionary Birsa Munda on his Birth Anniversary. As a true son of the soil, he taught us the importance of respecting and protecting indigenous rights. May we continue to be steadfast on the path shown by him. Jai Johar!" she wrote.