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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

‘Fruitless to attend’: Mamata Banerjee’s RSVP for PM Modi’s Niti Aayog meet

Mamata Banerjee described the Niti Aayog governing council meeting as an unproductive exercise since the government’s think-tank does not really have any financial powers.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2019 13:21 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Mamata Banerjee has refused to fly down to national capital Delhi for the Niti Aayog governing council meeting on June 15
Mamata Banerjee has refused to fly down to national capital Delhi for the Niti Aayog governing council meeting on June 15(REUTERS FILE)

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has refused to attend a meeting of the governing council of the NITI Aayog in Delhi on June 15, arguing it is “fruitless” for her to attend the meeting of “a body that has no financial powers.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to chair the June 15 meeting, the first of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government’s second tenure

Officials had earlier said the main agenda of the meet would revolve around agriculture, water management in drought-affected areas and national security. This is the governing council’s fifth meeting, the first took place in February 2015 after the think-tank replaced the Planning Commission.

“Given that the NITI Aayog has no financial powers and the power to support state plans it is fruitless for me to attend the meeting,” the chief minister wrote in a 3-page letter to PM Modi. She also made out a case for giving the think-tank financial powers as suggested by a former chairman of the Finance Commission.

“The experience of the last four and a half years we had, with the NITI Ayog brings me back to my earlier suggestion to you that we focus on Inter State Council constituted under Article 263 of the Constitution, with appropriate modification, to enable ISC to discharge its augmented range of functions as the nodal entity of the country,” she said.

“I now find that senior officials of the NITI Aayog themselves are making public statements that should be given some powers in allocating development expenditures to state -- a role that Planning Commission had played earlier,” Mamata Banerjee added in the letter.

“May I also reiterate that the National Development Council which has been given a quiet burial, may also be subsumed within the broadened constitutional body of Inter State Council,” she wrote.

Mamata Banerjee had skipped the governing council’s first meeting back in 2015. But she did turn up at the NITI Ayog’s meeting last year along with chief ministers of other opposition block -- Kerala’s Pinarayi Vijayan, Karnataka’s HD Kumaraswamy and N Chandrababu Naidu, then chief minister of Andhra Pradesh.

Significantly, during the Lok Sabha election campaign the Trinamool Congress chief criticised Modi on several occasions accusing him of dismantling the Planning Commission.

First Published: Jun 07, 2019 12:13 IST