KOLKATA: Opposing creation of a new body to replace the Planning Commission, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him not to "dilute the autonomy of the states" but to protect and strengthen the nation's federal character.
Banerjee, who skipped Modi's Sunday meeting with chief ministers in New Delhi to discuss the structure of the new structure that would substitute the Planning Commission, in a letter called for assigning the Inter-State Council (ISC) with decision making responsibilities instead of setting up a new body.
"Any new structure that is thought of, should strengthen the role of the states and eliminate actions like discretionary fund transfers. The activities of the proposed new body should flow out of constitutional mandates and should be assigned a major role in handling issues between the centre and the states," said Banerjee in the letter.
"Instead of setting up a new body, it may be more appropriate to assign the decision-making responsibilities of the Planning Commission to the ISC. The Council, which is a constitutional entity, has a secretariat which will require suitable strengthening.
"The existing constitutional provisions could be appropriately modified to enable the ISC to discharge its augmented range of functions. In the same vein, the National Development Council should also be subsumed with the new dispensation," suggested Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress chief.
She also asserted that an existing functional mechanism should not be dismantled without putting in place a "credible and capable body with a statutory mandate".
"I may also add that the new structure should not, in any way, dilute the autonomy of the states including fiscal autonomy and, in fact, protect and strengthen the federal character of the nation as enshirined in the constitution," she added.
Addressing the media after the first round of the meetings, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley claimed that most chief ministers have favoured an alternative structure that would replace the Planning Commission.