Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Monday trained guns on the Centre for dissolving the planning commission saying that the state governments have “lost a vital platform to speak about their issues”.
“The chief ministers had a platform to voice their views and concerns. But now where should we go and speak about the issues we are facing? We need a stronger federal structure, but the Centre is announcing social sector reforms projects without consulting the state governments and, as a result, a disastrous situation is emerging,” Mamata said at Nabanna, the state secretariat in Howrah.
Mamata, who would be leaving for Delhi Tuesday to attend a seminar on federalism organised by her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal, claimed outlays on many social sector programmes like mid-day meal (MDM) scheme, integrated child development scheme (ICDS), Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and JNNURM have been curtailed by the Centre.
“The Centre has withdrawn their share (of costs) from several projects. For example in the ICDS and MDM schemes, the Centre-state share used to be 90:10 whereas now it stands at 60:40,” she said.
Mamata agreeing to attend the seminar, on September 30, is being seen by many as an attempt on her part to create a ‘third front’ in the country.
While Mamata claimed that this was an effort to ensure that the “federal structure of the state is maintained”, a source close to the CM said, “This is not so
much a question of a third front, as it is a matter of ensuring that the varying opposing forces are united to ensure that the Union government is kept in line. Right now, the Congress can’t do that. This is what democracy is about. Whether this will lead to a third alliance is mere speculation”.
A Delhi government official said, “There has been a plan of holding a conclave of Chief Ministers on Federalism on September 30. It was to be held on September 22, but with Bihar elections announced, the plan was postponed”.
The official added, “For Mamata, it makes sense to align with Kejriwal in his continuing onslaught against the Modi government, with elections coming up in her state. The Delhi government is also trying to free itself from unnecessary influence from the Centre and aligning with Mamata will increase the pressure.”
Mamata and Kejriwal had earlier met in August for dinner at the residence of her nephew and Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee’s Delhi residence where they discussed “issues relating to co-operative federalism and Centre-state relations.”
After the meeting, Kejriwal had said, “Mamata didi is our senior and we can learn a lot from her. Her party has also been raising issues of the poor in West Bengal while in Delhi the Aam Aadmi Party has been raising the issues of the common man. There are commonalities between the two parties and we will work together”
Mamata had extended support to the AAP government in Delhi, when they locked horns with Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung over the Centre’s alleged interference in the state’s governance.
“Too much interference in the federal structure is unacceptable. The state government is an elected body. Central government is also an elected body. Every elected body has its own jurisdiction. One must respect the other,” the Bengal CM had tweeted then.
Similarly when Mamata released the 64 secret files on Netaji and urged the Narendra Modi govt to follow suit, Kejriwal had congratulated her and said that he too wanted the declassification of the files.