Home Minister P Chidambaram on Tuesday played down the absence of the chief ministers of Bihar and Jharkhand, Nitish Kumar and Shibu Soren, from a meeting in Kolkata called to draw up a blueprint for inter-state operations against the Maoists.
"I think you are drawing unnecessary inferences," Chidambaram told a journalist who asked whether the meeting's aim to coordinate a security operation against the ultras in four eastern Indian states - West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand - had suffered because of the absence of these two chief ministers.
Chidambaram said Nitish Kumar had told him that he had prior appointments which he could not avoid, and instead, deputed state Home Secretary Amir Subhani and Director General of Police Anand Shankar for the meeting.
"There is no problem with Nitish Kumar. It has been decided that either I shall go to Patna or he will come over to Delhi for talks (on the Maoist issue)," said Chidamabaram.
However, there was speculation that the Bihar chief minister decided to skip the talks after a request from Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee who reportedly told him that his West Bengal counterpart Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will derive political mileage from the meeting.
To a query about Nitish's reported observation that the Maoist problem could not be solved by using force, Chidambaram said: "I don't know what he said. Nobody says use of force alone will solve the problem".
"We are all agreed about it. But in order to put down violence and re-establish civil administration in the Maoist areas, we have to use force," he asserted.
Chidambaram said Soren was taken ill and had to be hospitalised.
Jharkhand was represented by Deputy Chief Ministers Raghubar Das and Sudesh Mahto.
An aide of Soren in Ranchi said that he suddenly fell ill on Tuesday morning with his blood pressure shooting up.
In political circles, however, Soren's decision not to attend the meeting with Chidambaram is being seen differently.
Top Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) leader Kishanji had reportedly said in a statement to the Jharkhand media that the door for dialogues would be closed forever if Soren attended the meeting.
But Chidambaram reminded the journalists of his two-hour-long meeting with Soren on the Maoist issue in Delhi ten days back.
Bhattacharjee and his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik led their states' delegations at the meet.