After 14 years of misrule and inefficiency coupled with total lawlessness at all levels, the Indian tiol Congress in Assam is desperate to find the means of coming back to power again for the fourth time in the Assembly elections of 2016. This desperation is reflected in the four-day-long celebrations of the completion of the fourth year of the Tarun Gogoi government in its third innings. Since there has been no development in Assam, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has been busy during the last few days trying to spread myths and cards about the numerous U-turns executed by Prime Minister rendra Modi and about the diverse ways in which Central grants and allocations to Assam for its so-called development projects have been either reduced or withheld. He has even gone to the extent of warning school teachers and other government employees that they may not get their salaries regularly because the Centre has been withholding its grants. Much of this is not true. For instance, the Centre has allocated Rs 639.47 crore for midday meals for the fiscal year 2015-16. Of this, the first tranche of Rs 114.8487 crore has already been released. This amount includes the salaries of cooks and helpers for the midday meals of schools. As for the salaries of school teachers, the first tranche of Rs 290 crore for those who have cleared the TET has already been released. The Chief Minister was quite specific about sending out alarm sigls to anganwadi workers and helpers that the government may not be able to pay them their salaries. The Centre has sanctioned even their salaries and allowances on the same 90:10 formula for Assam. Thirty-one of the Assam government’s projects will run according to earlier plans, 24 of the projects will undergo a change in the Centre-State share and grants for eight projects will be withheld. Actually, Assam’s share of Central taxes is being increased by 10 per cent over the earlier allocation. What is conveniently glossed over is that the reductions made in the allocations to Assam in the Budget of 2015-16 have been based on the recommendations of the 14th Fince Commission filized during the UPA regime under Dr Manmohan Singh. The Assam government had misinformed the 14th Fince Commission that the State’s domestic revenue would increase. This did not happen. What has also been glossed over is that Rs 470 crore sanctioned by the 13th Fince Commission was not paid to Assam by the UPA government. Nor is there any mention of the fact that royalty due to the State on crude oil amounting to Rs 10,000 crore has not been paid to the State from the year 2008-09—during the UPA regime.
Much of the game plan of the Congress for the Assembly elections of 2016 is crude and simplistic to the point of being ludicrous. The most visible line of action is a concerted attempt to discredit the Centre for holding up allocations to the State when the Central grants to only a few of the so-called development projects have been withheld due to the failure of the government to furnish utilization certificates and proper accounts. Instead of instructing the government to follow the accounting norms set by the Centre as well as the minimum expected fincial discipline, the Chief Minister of Assam has been berating the Centre for being too fussy about fiscal discipline. Unfortutely, the media, instead of coming down heavily on the State government’s fiscal indiscipline, has chosen to fall for the Chief Minister’s cards about the Centre’s deprivation. Our stand on the total lack of fincial discipline of the Assam government has been endorsed also by the State’s former Chief Secretary and economist Haren Das, who has urged the Chief Minister to end the unlawful and unethical practices that are rampant in the Fince Department of the State. Unfortutely, this is not the season when considerations of what is legal, ethical and just and what will contribute to the greatest good of the greatest number do not appeal the Chief Minister or members of his political party. For the next year, their only obsession will be winning the Assembly elections of 2016 by hook or by crook. It remains to be seen if lawless and unscrupulous measures and cards against the Centre alone can win elections in the total absence of performance and efficiency.