Prithviraj Chavan, Siddaramaiah voice concern at some provisions
In a major setback to the Centre’s ambitious plan to set up the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) based on the diluted draft, at least two Congress Chief Ministers — Maharashtra’s Prithviraj Chavan and Karnataka’s K. Siddaramaiah — voiced their concerns over certain provisions of the anti-terror agency at the Chief Ministers’ Conference on internal security on Wednesday.
Significantly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde chose not to mention the controversial NCTC in their addresses, though they called for better coordination between the Centre and States on issues related to internal security.
This is for the first time that Congress Chief Ministers have openly spoken about their reservations on the NCTC, despite the fact that Mr. Shinde has considerably toned down the original version of the draft for setting up the federal anti-terror agency, an idea mooted by his predecessor P. Chidambaram, following stiff opposition from the non-Congress ruled States.
The major changes to the original draft include keeping the NCTC out of the purview of the Intelligence Bureau, and taking States into confidence before carrying out any operation in their territories.
Mr. Chavan sought further examination of certain provisions of the NCTC dealing with operations against terrorist groups in States.
Some portions of the proposed draft that deal with operations against terror groups require further examination to understand the implications of these provisions on operational efficacy and clarity on respective roles in such joint operations, he added.
Similarly, Mr. Siddaramaiah cautioned that “some safeguards are necessary before setting up the NCTC so that it is not given unbridled powers to encroach upon States’ domain.”
On the other hand, the non-Congress Chief Ministers stepped up their opposition, with the BJP Chief Ministers calling it a “flawed” idea while other non-Congress Chief Ministers said such attempts would weaken the federal structure.
In an apparent snub to the Centre, two Chief Ministers — West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu’s Jayalalithaa — did not attend the all-important meet related to the matters of national security.
Terming the NCTC as a “poorly conceived” idea, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to junk it. “It is not clear how big it is going to be, what forces are going to comprise it, how exactly it is going to function and which statute will it derive its powers from. I think such poorly conceived ideas which tinker with age old existing systems rather than strengthening them are going to do irreparable loss to our internal security apparatus,” he said.
Similarly, other BJP Chief Ministers like Chhattisgarh’s Raman Singh and Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the proposed agency violated the federal structure of the Constitution, while Bihar’s Nitish Kumar and Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik called for “wider debate” before setting up a federal agency. However, Uttar Pradesh’s Akhilesh Yadav remained non-committal to supporting the NCTC.
However, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram countered the opposing Chief Ministers’ allegations and warned that the country would have to pay a heavy price for stalling the NCTC. “I am afraid, the kind of seriousness that we should give to the NCTC, is lost. And I deeply regret that a couple of Chief Ministers opposed the NCTC even at the present modified version. If this NCTC is opposed, I am afraid, as I said, the country will pay price from time to time,” he told journalists here.