NEW DELHI: Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal move to bring together Chief Ministers on a common platform to build a pressure group against the Centre got a very poor response on Wednesday with most CMs opting out from ‘Chief Ministers Conclave’ and only two – West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar –turned up.
Interestingly, Banerjee and Sarkar did not share the stage together and each avoided each other. While Banerjee shared stage with Kejriwal, Sarkar left immediately after his meeting with Kejriwal ended and did not address the audience.
Kejriwal had invited all the Chief Ministers, including those from BJP and Congress ruled states for the conclave but only two came and three CMs -- Nitish Kumar from Bihar, Lal Thanhawla of Mizoram and N Rangasamy of Puduchherry -- sent their detailed letters, expressing support for the meeting.
In his message, Nitish Kumar said Modi was making big announcements for Bihar considering the polls but at the same time he was not heeding to problems of neighbouring states like Odisha and West Bengal. Kumar, who is leading the alliance of JD(U), RJD and Congress, also slammed the Centre for not convening meetings of the National Development Council which he said is the only “stage” where chief ministers present their views.
In his message, Puducherry Chief Minister N Rangaswamy said States and Union Territories must be consulted before appointing Governors and Lt Governors. “The opinion of states/UT Governments should prevail in matters of posting/transfer of All India Service Officers. Law and order being state subject, the Centre's intervention through CBI or NIA should always be with consent,” he said.
Both Banerjee and Kejriwal attacked Central government stating that they have been running “parallel governments” in their states through Governor and Lieutenant Governor respectively.
Demanding complete decentralisation to strengthen federalism in India, Kejriwal attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for interfering in functioning of states as well as undermining the judiciary.
He also accused Modi of doing politics in allocation of funds and arm-twisting the states by using agencies like CBI. Kejriwal accused the Centre of using three instruments to "interfere in functioning of state governments – Lt Governors or governors, central investigating agencies like CBI and finances.
“Centre and the LG are not only impinging on powers of the state governments. They are also taking away the powers of the judiciary. They are saying we will declare orders null and void and not the judiciary. It seems we do not need judges in Delhi anymore,” he said.
He also said that the level of interference by the BJP-led Centre is not only limited to Delhi but is also happening in states like West Bengal. “In Constitution, separation of powers is clear and going against it is not right. Complete de-centralisation is a must. States will have to be given more power, rising above party politics,” said Kejriwal.
He also criticized Centre for disbanding of the Planning Commission which he said used to allocate a segment of financial resources to the states. The Chief Minister wondered how the funds which used to be distributed by the Planning Commission are being allocated now.
He, however, also mentioned that he is not creating any “third front” and have organized the conclave to discuss “centre-state relationship”.
But Banerjee blasted at Centre for CBI raids at the residence of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and wondered what would happen if a CM orders raids at the house of Prime Minister.
“Today you conduct raids in the residence of Chief Ministers. But tomorrow if a chief minister raids the residence of Prime Minister? All the constitutional positions are at stake. We have never seen such things (raids) happen at the houses of President, PM, CM, judges, newspaper editors. There should be ethics. They have no such ethics,” she said.
She also alleged that the West Bengal Governor had written to the Union Home Ministry demanding central forces for civic polls in the state without keeping her in the loop.
“It's shocking. They should fight politically. Why this parallel government everywhere from the houses of Governors and Lt Governors? I respect my jurisdiction and have no political intent to interfere. But what is happening in the name of democracy?” Banerjee said.
She also stated that the Centre is busy “making everything communal”. “Even when a child suffers an accident they see whether he is a Hindu or Muslim. They have threatened Derek (O Brien) saying we are committing Hindu genocide. Inter-religious relationships are being given communal tint,” she said.
She also referred to the Burdwan blasts that claimed two lives last October to make a case of alleged discrimination by the Centre.
“Two people had died last year during the pujas. They sent NIA. But no such thing for Madhya Pradesh even after so many people have died in bomb blasts... See the difference, this is discrimination. It is not right to malign like this,” she said.
She attacked Centre for disbanding the Planning Commission, which she said was the brain child of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. She urged the PM to call a full-fledged meeting of the CMs to discuss all issues.