After criticising the Centre for “usurping the powers” of State governments and its now-withheld plan to set up a National Counter-Terrorism Centre at a meeting on internal security here on Monday, Chief Ministers of non-Congress governments — Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu), Narendera Modi (Gujarat) and Naveen Patnaik (Odisha) — had separate meetings to discuss strategies to counter the Centre's move and uphold the States' autonomy.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who was to have met Ms. Jayalalithaa, as part of her meetings with non-Congress Chief Ministers, could not make it, as his speech at the meeting got delayed, informed sources said.
It was Mr. Patnaik who visited Ms. Jayalalithaa first at the Tamil Nadu House here. The meeting lasted for 20 minutes. Then came Mr. Modi, who had a longer meeting. In fact, Mr. Patnaik was leaving the Tamil Nadu House, even as Mr. Modi entered the meeting hall, the sources said.
Talking to journalists before leaving the Tamil Nadu House, Mr. Patnaik said it was a courtesy call as Ms. Jayalalithaa was an old family friend of his father (Biju Patnaik). Mr. Modi and Ms. Jayalalithaa did not share what transpired at their meeting. She left for Chennai in the evening.
Interestingly, most of the non-Congress Chief Ministers and Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal have been opposing the NCTC plan which, they say will infringe upon the rights of the State governments. They are also unhappy with the proposed amendment to the Border Security Force Act in respect of deployment in the States.
Earlier, speaking at the conference, convened by the Union Home Ministry, Ms. Jayalalithaa warned against an “emerging pattern,” wherein the States' powers were “abrogated” by the UPA government through Bills. She accused it of showing “scant respect” for the constitutionally elected State governments.
A cogent commentary
She said the Centre had unilaterally decided to hold the India-U.S. joint naval exercise off the Tamil Nadu coast, without taking her government into confidence. “Lack of consultation with the States and failure to take the States into confidence are a cogent commentary on the system of governance at the Centre.”
Mr. Modi too criticised the Centre for its “non-consultative” approach to the State governments on important issues. The Union government was creating “State within State” by amending the RPF Act and the BSF Act, a move that would divest the State police forces of their powers and would meddle with subjects put on the State List.
Politicisation of the central agencies, including the CBI, was increasing; they were used to harass and victimise the rivals of the ruling party at the Centre. “This approach has gravely compromised the credibility of agencies like the CBI, and is a matter of concern since these agencies are also involved in internal security matters,” Mr. Modi said.
Mr. Patnaik wanted urgent consultations between the Centre and the States on the NCTC issue; any delay in holding such a meeting would affect law and order.