In an indication that she would skip the June 15 NITI Aayog meeting, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying it was “fruitless” for her to attend the deliberations as the body has no financial powers and the power to support state plans.
In a letter to Modi on Thursday which was officially made public on Friday, Banerjee suggested that the government focus on the Inter-State Council with “appropriate modifications” to “deepen cooperative federalism and strengthen federal unity”.
Banerjee also claimed in the three-page missive that the National Development Council, “which has been given a quiet burial”, be subsumed within the broadened constitutional body the Inter State Council.
“Given the fact that the Niti Aayog has no financial powers and the power to support state plans, it is fruitless for me to attend the meeting of a body that is bereft of any financial powers,” she said, intensifying her battle with the Centre.
Banerjee, in her letter, traced the history of the NITI Aayog ever since it was formed on January 1, 2015, to replace the Planning Commission.
“Unfortunately, a new body called NITI Aayog was formed on January 1, 2015, in place of the Planning Commission, without assigning any financial powers to assist the States, based on their need assessment, as was being done by the erstwhile Planning Commission. Furthermore, the new body also lacks the power of supporting the Annual Plan of the States.”
Banerjee had on earlier occasions also stayed away from Niti Aayog deliberations to drive home her annoyance at the dissolution of Planning Commission.
“The experience of the last four and half years we had with the Niti Ayog, brings me back to my earlier suggestion to you that we focus on the Inter-State Council constituted under Article 263 of the constitution, with appropriate modifications, to enable the ISC to discharge its augmented range of functions as the nodal entity of the country. This will deepen cooperative federalism and strengthen federal polity,” Banerjee said.
“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 the State Council,” she added.
The June 15 NITI Aayog governing council meeting, to be chaired by Modi, is slated to discuss multiple issues relating to water management, agriculture and security.
It is the fifth meeting of the governing council – the apex forum of NITI Aayog – that is constituted of all Chief Ministers, Lieutenant Governors of Union Territories, several Union Ministers and senior government officials.
Banerjee has been on a collision course with the Modi-led Centre and scaled up her fight by skipping the oath taking ceremony of the Prime Minister-led new Council of Ministers late last month.