In 15 minutes flat, claims West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress boss Mamata Banerjee, she managed to extract an assurance from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the National Counter Terrorism Centre will not be rolled out on March 1.
Banerjee, the key ally in the UPA with a fairly long history of blocking key moves of the government, has been playing a pivotal role among non-UPA chief ministers to oppose the NCTC on the ground that the mechanism would upset the federal structure of the country.
On Tuesday, Singh stepped in to end the controversy over the home ministry proposal for a centralised authority to counter terror, saying that he would write to the chief ministers to allay their apprehensions.
Singh also asked home minister P Chidambaram to discuss the proposal with the parties concerned before taking a final step.
Banerjee said after her meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesday: “I told him (Singh) that when you have mentioned about discussions, then it should not be rolled out now. The PM assured me that it will not be implemented without consulting the states.”
Banerjee’s assertion is seen as yet another show of clout in Delhi after her last show of power, forcing the government to put on hold another cabinet decision — to allow 51% FDI in multi-brand retail last year.
But a release from the prime minister’s office later said, “The Prime Minister assured the chief minister that he has requested the home minister to find ways to take the state governments on board on the issue of the National Counter Terrorism Centre.”
In his letter to the chief ministers, Singh mentioned that the idea of such a centre had been under consideration since 2001 after it was suggested by a joint taskforce on intelligence.
Banerjee countered: “When it is under consideration for the past 11 years, what is the hurry to implement it immediately?”
Banerjee also got Singh’s assurance for a quick approval of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration Bill. “We have done our part and now the Centre has to get the bill signed by the President. The PM told me the centre would clear it in a day or two,” she said.
“The home ministry is expeditiously processing the (Gorkhaland) bill in the light of the issues raised by various ministries and the comments of the state governments,” the PMO release said, adding that the Prime Minister assured that the home ministry would complete the processing of the bill soon.