Saturday, February 4, 2017

Biju Janata Dal to target Dharmendra Pradhan for "misinformation" in Presidential address


Accused often for playing as a soft ally to the BJP, Biju Janata Dal (BJD) of Odisha is gearing up to attack the Narendra Modi-led dispensation in the centre during the debate on Presidential address to the joint sitting of
Parliament and highlight issues wherein the government has allegedly tried to "misinform" the nation. The BJD's tirade would target Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in particular as Naveen Patnaik-led outfit has always had not-so-smooth relation with Mr Pradhan, perhaps only prominent BJP leader from Odisha. Despite acceptability among a section of electorate, politically BJP remains a weak contender in Odisha politics.
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"Presidential address is a serious business. Government should have been careful on many aspects including providing facts and figures. Some datas they claim do not match with the reality or the figures provided by other respectable sources of
the government machinery and hence the error is more than just error, it's blunder," a party leader said.

Sources said the BJD parliamentary party met in Delhi and decided to field two speakers during the debate and highlight the lapses on the part of government in providing "facts and figures". In para 59 of President Pranab Mukherjee's address to the joint sitting of Parliament on January 31, the government has claimed that "the Direct Benefit Transfer programme of subsidies through Jan Dhan
Aadhar-Mobile (JAM) Trinity has prevented leakages and helped save Rs 36,000 crore". BJD also claims that PAHAL is the world's largest cash benefit transfer scheme that has saved over Rs 21,000 crore in two years.

BJD MPs now say "some of  these figures seem are part of misinformation campaign of the government". "We cannot be blaming Pranab babu (President) for this. The government ought to be made accountable," a party MP said.

Asked why BJD would be sharpening its attack on the government vis-a-vis Presidential address as often the Naveen Patnaik-led outfit from Odisha has sided with the BJP-led dispensation, a source countered saying, "Whether pro-government or anti-government, facts and figures are sacrosanct and the government cannot afford to be casual on these with the Presidential address to the joint sitting of Parliament".
Naveen's grip on Odisha is very firm

Sources said as against the data on Direct Benefit Transfer programme of subsidies through Jan Dhan Aadhar-Mobile (JAM) Trinity in the Presidential address, the data on the same title provided in the report of the 
Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said, contrary to government claims reduction in subsidy expenditures was also due to "fall in crude oil price" in international market. "There is an attempt to suggest that the efficient handling of the Union Petroleum ministry under Dharmendra Pradhan has saved the exchequer a sum of Rs 21,000 crore. This is pure falsehood," the source said trying to take a dig at Pradhan.

The BJD's latent rivalry with Mr Pradhan is well known as the latter is perhaps only a state-level and prominent BJP leader from Odisha.  Last week, the BJD leaders in Odisha slammed Pradhan for trying to act like a spokesperson of Chhattisgarh on Mahandi water sharing dispute. "People of Odisha will never forgive those acting against the state's interest, the people will give them a befitting reply,"  BJD leader Surya Narayan Patro had said. 
The sharp comments from BJD leader came a day after Dharmendra Pradhan had slammed Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for rejecting the negotiation committee formed by the Centre to resolve the water sharing dispute between Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The CAG report had pointed out that "the significant reduction of Rs 23, 316.21 crore around 2015-16 in subsidy payout was on account of the combined effect of decrease in off take of subsidised cylinders by consumers and lower subsidy rates arising from the sharp fall in crude prices in 2015-16". 

"Hence, our point is the government needs to explain why in the Presidential address, the government has shied from admitting that the reduction in subsidy expenditures was also due to fall in crude oil price and not due to efficient handling of any one minister or due to 'Give up' of gas subsidies by consumers," the source said.

The CAG report, according to BJD leaders, also has said that the actual subsidy payout during the period from April 2015 to December 2015 was Rs 12,084.24 crore as against Rs 35,400.46 crore during April 2014 to December 2014. 

It further said, the "significant reduction" of Rs 23, 316.21 crore in subsidy payout was on account of the "combined effect of decrease in off take of subsidised cylinders by consumers and lower subsidy rates arising from the 
sharp fall in crude prices in 2015-16. 

The audit examination also had indicated that reduced subsidy rate on account of fall in crude oil price resulted in reduced subsidy payout of Rs 21,552.28 crore, while the effect on the same due to reduced offtake of cylinders by consumers worked out to Rs 1,763.93 crore.

(ends) 

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