After the meeting, Kerala CM Oommen Chandy tells Manoj CG that the Planning Commission should get another chance. Excerpts
PM Narendra Modi has proposed replacing the Planning Commission with a new body. As a Congress CM, what are your views?
We favour reorientation of the Planning Commission. However, replacing it with another body is not right. We agree changes can be made to meet current requirements. But, one should not forget that India as we see today is because of the Commission’s policies. It has played a pivotal role in the country’s development. You cannot abolish such a body in such haste.
Was that the view of all the Congress CMs?
Yes. All Congress CMs were of the same view. Even many of the non-BJP CMs said there can be changes to improve the panel’s functioning. This system has been in place since the 1950s. But, the government is planning to do away with the commission without proposing a credible alternative. It is a unilateral decision.
Why do you feel it is a unilateral decision?
The Centre did not consult the CMs before announcing the decision. The PM spoke about it in his Independence Day speech. They could have called a National Development Council meeting. The proposal appears to be half-baked. Had the Centre proposed a better model, we could have discussed. It seems they are going to think and give shape to the alternative model now.
It seems the Centre is keen to go ahead with its plans.
They are a democratically elected government with a majority. If they still go ahead despite our objections, we will oppose. We will take our stand to the people. The Finance Commission and the Planning Commission are bodies which involve the states. If the states’ views are not heeded, then it will set a wrong precedent.
You suggested that the functioning of the panel can be improved. Do you have any suggestions?
We are ready. But, the Centre seems to have made up its mind. One should remember that the reality at the time of Independence was very different. There was major food grain shortage. Industrial growth was dismal. Today, India exports food grains. India ranks among the top 10 countries when it comes to industrial growth. And the planning commission played a key role in this all round development.
Do you think the Centre’s move is in the spirit of BJP’s mantra of cooperative federalism?
I don’t want to make a political argument. But, I can say that the way it is being done, without consulting chief ministers, undermines the federal structure. The Centre cannot take such an unilateral decision. We should remember that the planning commission also played a role in making the federal system fairly successful.