New Delhi, May 5: Biju Janata Dal (BJD) members staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha today, protesting against finance minister Arun Jaitley expressing the central government's commitment to the Polavaram project.
The BJD members stood up in protest the moment Jaitley, while replying to the discussion over the Finance Bill, referred to the Polavaram project and reiterated the central government's commitment to it.
The reference to Polavaram came as Jaitley resorted to assuage the concerns of members from Andhra Pradesh of revenue deficit to the state after bifurcation. He gave figures to show the increase in allotment to Andhra and referred to the Polavaram project.
"For Polavaram, we are trying to organise from the special fund, which we have created under Nabard, so that a substantial part of the Polavaram will be funded. All I want to assure you that as a state which has lost revenue after the partition, every rupee that Andhra is entitled to and which it requires is being given," Jaitley said.
While Telugu Desam Party (TDP) members thumped desks to welcome the commitment, the BJD members registered their protest. "Do you not think that we should wait for the Supreme Court judgment?" BJD's leader in the House Bhartruhari Mahatab rose to ask. Odisha has moved the Supreme Court over the Polavaram project. The BJD is opposed to the irrigation project driven by fears that large areas of the state would be submerged.
To this, Jaitley said that under the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, the central government was committed to the Polavaram project. "I cannot go back on the commitment," Jailtey said.
At this point, Mahatab reminded that the central government had assured them to form a committee to look into the grievances of Odisha. "There was a statement that we will form a committee," Mahatab said. All this while, BJD members were on their feet in protest.
Jaitley said he was willing to look into Odisha's grievances independently, but could not go back on the commitment made in the Andhra Act.
"We can look at Odisha's grievances independently, but I cannot go back on the Andhra Act. It is an act passed by both Houses of Parliament," Jaitley said amid protest by the BJD members.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan urged the BJD members to calm down, pointing out that discussion was on the Finance Bill and not Polavaram.
BJD MP Tathagata Satpathy was heard, saying that the Odisha members would walk out in protest and soon they all stepped out of the House.
Jaitley tried to assuage the BJD members by reiterating the government's helplessness and seeking to consider Odisha's case but failed to stop the BJD MPs.
"It was the UPA government, which had proposed the Re-organisation Act, and if there is a provision I cannot disregard it...I want to assure the members that we will take it into consideration," Jaitley said as BJD members walked out disregarding the plea.