A total of eight chief ministers have abstained from the NITI Aayog's eighth Governing Council meeting on Saturday, which will deliberate on several issues including, health, skill development, women empowerment and infrastructure development.
The high-level meeting is being chaired by PM Modi with the aim to make India a developed nation by 2047.
The Council, the apex body of NITI Aayog, includes all chief ministers, lieutenant governors of Union Territories and several Union ministers. The prime minister is the Chairman of NITI Aayog.
Union ministers Amit Shah, Niramala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal and chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, and Madhya Pradesh are attending the meeting, among others.
Missing Chief Ministers
Among the list of absentees is West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Punjab’s Bhagwant Mann, Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot and Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is known for walking on a tightrope between the ruling BJP and other Opposition parties, will also be absent from the meeting.
The TMC has stated that the Centre has turned down the Bengal government’s request to send its state finance minister in the Chief Minister’s place.
State Finance Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya told PTI, "We had requested the Centre to allow me and the chief secretary to attend the meeting as Mamata Banerjee is busy with some other work. In its reply, the Centre said the 'CM may attend'. This is an indirect way of not allowing anybody other than the CM to attend the meeting. Hence, there will be no representative of West Bengal at tomorrow's meeting."
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying he won't be able to attend the Niti Aayog meeting over the Centre's recent ordinance on control of services in Delhi. The AAP supremo had also hit out at the Centre alleging that federalism has been turned into a ‘joke’.
Punjab CM has called for a boycott of the meeting to protest against the alleged discrimination against the state by the Centre over the issue of grant of funds. Aam Aadmi Party's Punjab unit chief spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang said the chief minister has taken up with the Centre the demand to release Rs 3,600 crore outstanding rural development fund (RDF), but the Centre has been sitting over it.
Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Sanjay Raut has said that improper treatment at the hands of the Centre is the main reason behind non-BJP Chief Ministers skipping the meeting. "Whoever is not obeying the Centre, the NITI Aayog is not listening to their demands," he said, according to NDTV.
Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan has not provided any specific reason for not attending the meeting while Rajasthan CM Gehlot has cited health reasons for skipping the meeting.
Boycotting NITI Ayog an anti-people decision: BJP
The BJP lashed out at chief ministers who boycotted the governing council meeting of the NITI Aayog, calling their decision "anti-people" and "irresponsible".
Addressing a press conference, senior BJP leader and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the NITI Aayog is a key body for determining the entire objective, framework and road map for the development of the country.
He said as many as 100 issues are proposed to be discussed in the eighth governing council meeting of the NITI Aayog but chief ministers of eight states are not coming to attend it.
"Why are they not coming to attend the meeting where 100 issues are to be discussed. If such a large number of chief ministers do not participate, they are not bringing the voice of their states," Prasad said.
It is "very unfortunate, irresponsible and anti-people", he said. "How far will you go in opposing Prime Minister Narendra Modi," the BJP leader asked.
"You will get more opportunities to oppose Modi. But why are you causing harm to the people of your state?" he questioned.
This decision to boycott the meeting by eight chief ministers is "totally irresponsible" and is also "against the public interest and in the interest of people they govern in their states", Prasad said.
Generally, the full council meeting happens every year and last year, it was held under the chairmanship of Modi on August 7.
The council meeting was not convened in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The first meeting of the council took place on February 8, 2015.