The chorus against the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) grew louder at the chief ministers’ conference on Saturday despite a dilution of its powers, forcing home minister P Chidambaram to send his blueprint for a one-stop counter-terror body back to the drawing board.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, Gujarat’s Narendra Modi and J Jayalalithaa of Tamil Nadu led the onslaught. They accused the home ministry of trying to usurp the powers of the states and widening the “trust deficit” between the Centre and the states — a phrase Modi had used at the chief ministers’ conference last month.
By the end of the meeting, Chidambaram acknowledged that the chief ministers’ main concerns — the NCTC’s powers of arrest and its placement under the Intelligence Bureau — “are really true”.
“I have assured them that all their suggestions would be most carefully and anxiously considered,” he said.
It wasn’t only the NDA-Mamata combine that had concerns about the NCTC’s powers of arrest. Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi and J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah too made it clear they weren’t comfortable with the NCTC’s powers to carry out arrests without keeping the states in the loop.
UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav too demanded a “rethink”.
Chidambaram, who had conceived the NCTC as an umbrella body two years ago, later told reporters that all chief ministers recognised the need for an NCTC or similar organisation, but there was no unanimity on its powers and functions.
While many chief ministers supported the NCTC, some extended qualified support and three outrightly rejected it.
Chidambaram refused to name the three chief ministers. A government official said the reluctance could be due to the overwhelming weight that the Centre accorded to keep Banerjee, the Trinamool Congress chief, in humour.
“I firmly believe we need a counter-terrorism body… Whether it is NCTC or some other body, whether it will have these powers or some other powers or functions is a matter that can be debated, but certainly we need a counter-terrorism body," Chidambaram said.