NEW DELHI/BHUBANESWAR: While the Prime Minister is yet to recover from the humiliating defeat on the issue of the Lokpal Bill, non-Congress chief ministers are getting together to deliver yet another political blow to the UPA leadership over the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC.) Suspecting a sinister design behind the NCTC, prominent chief ministers led by Naveen Patnaik shot off angry letters advising the Prime Minister to refrain from moves which threaten Centre-state relations and adversely affect the federal structure of the Constitution.
Last week, the Union home ministry issued guidelines about the NCTC’s functioning. The Centre decided to set up the agency to ostensibly collect information about terror-related activities. What irked the states is the provision that allows NCTC investigators to interrogate or collect information about anyone—including suspected politicians—without the prior approval of the state government. Mamata Banerjee and others had earlier objected to the Lokpal Bill because it also aimed at curbing the powers of the states in the selection of the Lokayukata and its authority. Said Patnaik in his letter dated February 13, “After all, the price of democratic freedom is eternal vigilance. It would seem that the UPA government at times, knowingly or unknowingly, infringes on those federal rights.’’
This was followed by Banerjee writing a similar letter to the Prime Minister on February 14. In close coordination with Banerjee, Patnaik also wrote to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu (who has earlier been an ardent flag-bearer of federal rights).