Mamata, Jayalalithaa not to attend today's Chief Ministers’ conference on internal security

Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde is not likely to get the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) cleared at Wednesday’s Chief Ministers’ conference on internal security. At least two opposing Chief Ministers — Tamil Nadu’s Jayalalithaa and West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee — have decided not to attendwhile others like Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, apart from the BJP-ruled States, are likely pose tough questions on the issue.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who will inaugurate the conference, will reiterate the need for having the NCTC strengthen anti-terror paraphernalia, Mr. Shinde, whose emissaries have been working overtime to sell the diluted NCTC draft to non-Congress Chief Ministers for almost a year now, might find it difficult to convince opposing States that the new law would not encroach on their sovereign rights.

Noting that the political compulsions of the BJP and other State parties were forcing them to oppose the NCTC, a senior government official said: “In the revised NCTC draft, which has already been circulated to all CMs, the so-called irritants have been removed. For instance, the NCTC would work directly under the Home Ministry and under the Intelligence Bureau as proposed earlier, while all anti-terror operations would be carried out by taking States into confidence.”

“Where a terrorist or a terrorist organisation is identified, operations against them would be carried out through or in conjunction with State police. Similarly, the NCTC would clear all requests for deployment of ‘special forces’ to assist State police whenever their services are required. The effort behind the reworking of the [NCTC draft] was to take all States into confidence so that a robust anti-terror infrastructure could be created,” the officer said.

However, it seems that so far all this has failed to cut ice with opposing CMs. Mr. Naveen Patnaik told journalists in the Capital that he was still not sure about the NCTC and would decide on it only after it was discussed by the CMs and the Union government at the meet. On the other hand, Ms. Jayalalithaa, who will not be present at the meet, has termed such conference as a “routinised ritual”, giving a clear signal to the government.

Interestingly, since Mr. Shinde took charge of the Home Ministry last year, he has been making all-out efforts to reach out to opposing Chief Ministers to get the NCTC cleared. Sources said he had even deputed a small team to reach out to all opposing Chief Ministers before making changes in the draft.

Though former Home Minister P. Chidambaram, who mooted this idea based on the United States’ NCTC, was not keen to accommodate changes to the original draft [lest it defeat] the very purpose of creating a specialised anti-terror organisation, Mr. Shinde has kept an open mind on the idea.

Wednesday’s conference will be a test for Mr. Shinde and the Home Ministry’s last chance to get the NCTC cleared before the next year’s general elections,” a senior official said.

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