In a new twist to the tussle between the Centre and the Kerala government over the assistance of $100 million offered by UAE, the Kerala unit of the BJP said on Friday the United Arab Emirates did not announce any such financial aid for the flood-ravaged state.
It demanded that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan revealed the source who told him about the assistance.
Addressing the media in Kozhikode, state BJP chief PS Sreedharan Pillai said: “We want Vijayan to explain about this news and from where he received it. After the Centre expressed reservations in accepting the aid, a vicious smear campaign was unleashed against the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.”
Earlier, at a press meet in the state capital this week, Vijayan spoke about the aid from the UAE, saying the news was conveyed to him by Middle East business honcho, MA Yusuf Ali.
In major turn of events, even United Arab Emirates on Friday said it had not fixed any specific amount to be given as financial aid to Kerala.
The UAE’s ambassador to India, Ahmed Albanna, has reiterated what his country announced a week ago, that it has formed a committee to ensure the funds reach the right beneficiaries in Kerala.
“We have set up a national committee for aid to Kerala. The committee will work with the MEA (India’s foreign ministry) and the embassy to ensure the funds reach the needy,” The UAE’s ambassador to India, Ahmed Albanna was quoted as saying by NDTV.
“No official announcement on the amount has been made by the UAE government yet,” he added.
A massive controversy had erupted between the Centre and the Kerala government over the Rs 700 crore offer of assistance reportedly made by the government of UAE towards relief and rehabilitation following the devastating Kerala floods.
While the Kerala government has been saying it needs the funds given the humongous loss of everything from agricultural land to civic infrastructure, the Centre rejected UAE’s offer on Wednesday citing “existing policy”.
The “existing policy” the foreign ministry was referring to dates back to 2004 when the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government led by the Congress took a decision not to accept foreign aid.
Following the devastation caused by the Indian Ocean tsunami that year, Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister, had said, “We feel that we can cope with the situation on our own and we will take their help if needed.”
Reacting to the Centre’s decision on Wednesday, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac tweeted that Chapter 9 of National Disaster Management Plan states that aid from a foreign country can be accepted in times of severe calamity.