Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday batted for the concept of a Team India powered by cooperative federalism and smooth co-ordination between the Centre and chief ministers, saying such a collaboration is essential to take the country forward.
“The Prime Minister and chief minister form a team as far as development of a state is concerned,” said Modi, speaking at a public meeting after inaugurating a Rs 16,000-crore modernisation project of IISCO at Burnpur, about 180km from state capital Kolkata.
The PM also emphasised that the Centre and states should put shoulder to shoulder and project an image of Team India abroad.
The tone of cooperation was set on Saturday evening by the two heads of government at a Kolkata auditorium. On Sunday, the two leaders carried the same spirit forward employing all the emphasis at their command to focus on collaboration between the Centre and the state.
“Unity is our strength. We (read Centre and state) have to work according to the Constitution. The Centre and the state both will work together. If India develops, so will Bengal,“ said Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
She also mentioned a few more projects in the region such as an NTPC power plant in Katwa in the same district as a mark of collaborative Centre-state efforts.
“The chief minister said very important words. She emphasised that the Centre and state have to work together,” Modi said in his speech. “The country is bigger than individual parties. Everybody has to join hands for development."
Afters days of acrimony and bitter squabbling, the shift from acrimony between the two leaders was first evident when Banerjee went to Delhi and met Modi without aides on March 10. In February, she skipped the first meeting of the Niti Ayog which Modi chaired and was attended by most chief ministers.
Trinamool Congress leaders said this was the best time for Banerjee to reach out to Modi as the BJP stood decimated in West Bengal following civic poll results and was in no position to challenge her.
Pointing out the need for value addition inside the Indian borders – Make In India in other words – Modi said, “It can’t continue that we export iron and import steel. If we have iron, we have to make steel here .”
Modi also highlighted that according to the 14 Finance Commission recommendations, his government took the initiative to retain just 38% of the pool of resources and transfer 62% to the states.
The PM lashed out at the prvious UPA regime and said, “During the earlier regime one would only hear about scams.”
“One would hear about the coal scams, when somebody would produce a letter to obtain a coal block and no money would accrue to the government. We have stopped all that. We have started auctions of coal blocks. And we have ensured that the money goes to the coal bearing states and should not fill the coffers of Delhi,” said Modi.
“A year ago the world used to say that India is sinking. Within a year the entire world – IMF, World, Moody’s etc. – is admitting that India has become one of the fastest growing nations of the world,” he said, a few days ahead of the first anniversary of his government in Delhi.
Over the past few days, the Trinamool Congress has supported the government on a few key bills in Parliament, including the GST and land boundary agreement with Bangladesh, apart from mellowing down on others. Sources said this was an opportunity for Banerjee to get some central funds, if not financial support for her cash-strapped state.
Opposition leaders, however, contended that a reprieve for people close to Banerjee who have been linked to the Saradha scam is a more compelling reason for the chief minister to get close to Modi.
“Bengal will progress and help India move ahead...Your sweat won’t go to waste,” said Modi, addressing the workers of IISCO who came to hear him.
Present at the Burnpur function on Sunday was MoS urban development and local MP Babul Supriyo, and a host of Trinamool leaders such as Malay Ghatak and Firhad Hakim.
Meanwhile, a political controversy broke out centering the presence of chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the programme.
The rival CPI(M) called Banerjee’s presence at Burnpur in Burdwan district a hypocrisy because she had allegedly launched an agitation in 2007 to prevent the acquisition of land for the expansion project.
“Whenever the authorities tried to acquire land, Mamata tried to block it and create trouble. She is now trying to take credit for the project,” said former CPI(M) Lok Sabha member Banshagopal Chowdhury.
The Congress and the CPI(M) charged the BJP and the Trinamool of cosying up to each other to suit political interests.
Referring to Modi’s address at Burnpur where he made a veiled attack on the Congress over scams, the two opposition parties accused him of going soft on the Trinamool and its leaders, many of whom were under the lens in the multi-crore Saradha deposit scandal.
“An unholy nexus has developed … Mamata wants to save herself from the CBI probe in Saradha, Modi wants to pass anti-people bills in Parliament,” said state Congress president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury.
“The CBI probe in Saradha has gone cold. Modi has gone silent on Saradha. He did not utter a word on the Burdwan and Pingla blasts,” he alleged.
(With agency inputs)