West Bengal was conspicuous for its absence at the first meeting of the Niti Ayog governing council on Sunday. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee – in a sign of her acrimonious relationship with the BJP and PM Narendra Modi – decided to give it a skip; she also did not send any other representative.
Justifying the decision, party spokesperson, Derek O Brien, said, “Has the BJP government really thought this Niti Aayog out? We think not. Dismantling the Planning Commission in a hurry without taking states into confidence is not the way forward. So when the concept itself was hurriedly introduced without consultations, why meetings now?”
Banerjee’s decision comes in the backdrop of tense relations between BJP and the TMC. She is the only chief minister who has not met Modi since he took over - and except for a fleeting encounter at a presidential banquet for the visiting Bangladesh president, they haven’t interacted.
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But the political context appears to have had an impact on centre-state ties. While finance minister Arun Jaitley did share the stage with her at an investors summit in Kolkata, by not attending the Niti Ayog meeting, Banerjee is understood to have sent a signal to the centre of her non-cooperation.
Meanwhile, in another political move and show solidaridy against BJP, Mamata congratulated Nitish Kumar as the next Bihar chief minister. Mamata tweeted “Nitish Kumar to become the chief minister of Bihar again. My warmest best wishes and congratulations to Nitish ji.”
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