Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee may hope to reap rich electoral dividends by pulling her party out of the UPA, but stands to miss proactive help from the Centre at a time when her state desperately needs central funds for key projects.
Uncertainty looms over Bengal’s finances with its revenue pegged at Rs. 76,943 crore and expenditure at Rs. 83,801 crore for the current financial year. Its outstanding debt is set to soar to nearly Rs. 2.26 lakh crore. Railway projects worth Rs. 70,000 crore may face an uncertain future if CP Joshi, the new railway minister, sets his priorities elsewhere.
The state may also have to wait longer to get additional 1000km of rural roads earlier offered as a sop. The Centre had considered constructing bridges as part of the rural road schemes, especially for Bengal.
“All these proactive initiatives may now be missing,” said a source in the rural development ministry. The fate of Kolkata Metro’s Rs. 5000-crore East-West corridor, which includes the country’s first under-water rail, also hangs in balance.
Last month, Banerjee managed to convince the Centre to give 74% stake in the project to the railway ministry, despite strong opposition from the urban development ministry. The two ministries initially had equal stake.
Similarly, chances of the Centre accepting Bengal’s demand to shift the proposed AIIMS-like hospital from north Bengal to south Bengal — a Trinamool stronghold — are now remote.
Earlier, the Centre had reportedly offered a Rs. 16,000-crore bailout package to the state. But it may now take a cautious approach as other states have also demanded similar packages. “If we don’t get the Centre’s help, we will go to the people, citing the Congress’ apathy towards Bengal,” said Trinamool leader Saugata Roy.
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