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Minister skips Jaitley meet

Ranchi, June 9: Jharkhand finance minister Rajendra Prasad Singh chose to skip a crucial meeting with Union minister Arun Jaitley to put forth the state’s expectations from the Union Budget today because he thought it more important to stay back for a review meeting in Palamau.

Instead, the JMM-led Hemant Soren government was represented by finance secretary A.P. Singh, fuelling speculation once again about the tenuous relationship that had developed among the allies, especially between the Congress and the JMM, in the ruling coalition.

“I got information about the meeting two days back. Today, I was in Palamau where a review meeting was pre-scheduled on problems related to power, commercial taxes, health, mining and other issues,” said the minister from Bermo, his constituency in Bokaro district.

“I could not attend the Delhi meeting but have sent a letter through the finance secretary to the Centre on what Jharkhand wants,” Singh, considered the Number Two in the state cabinet, told The Telegraph.

Asked whether he did not think the pre-Budget Delhi meeting was important enough to warrant his presence, Singh said he was pre-occupied with problems being faced by the people of the state, primarily prolonged power cuts amid the ongoing heat wave in the state.

Today’s meeting in Delhi, held at Hotel Ashoka between 3pm and 6.45pm, was, however, attended by finance ministers of a majority of states. Some states were even represented by chief ministers.

Finance secretary Singh said the meeting discussed the expectations of the state from the Union budget to be presented by the Narendra Modi government in a month or so.

“Different states give views on duty structures, share on central taxes etc. We have also pressed for increase in mining royalty rates besides an independent regulator for the mining sector,” the secretary told The Telegraph from Delhi over telephone.

Highly placed sources in the state government said initially there was a suggestion that some other minister represent Jharkhand at today’s meeting. But the idea fizzled out as none of the state ministers in Hemant Soren’s cabinet was considered qualified enough to represent the state at such an important meeting.

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