New Delhi: In more trouble for the Centre, a group of non-Congress, non-UPA chief ministers led by Tamil Nadu and Gujarat chief ministers, Jayalalithaa and Narendra Modi, respectively, severely criticised New Delhi at the Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Narendra Modi and Jayalalithaa also met separately after the meeting, sparking off political speculation.
It was a picture post card opportunity... smiles... warm handshakes... reflecting an apparent sense of bonhomie. But the moment the meeting on internal security started, it was clear. The UPA had a lot of fire-fighting to do with chief ministers, who were accusing the Centre of cutting into their power.
"No doubt that burden of fighting terror lies with the states. I am willing to walk the extra mile for them," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.
"I have always maintained that the states are the first line of fight against terror," Home Minister P Chidambram said.
But the sweet talk didn't seem to be working. From the government's own ally, Mamata Banerjee who skipped the meet, to Opposition-ruled states, the feeling was that of anger.
Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa said, "The states have been reduced to being glorified municipality by the Centre. The Centre is eroding authority of states by setting parallel police authority"?
Mamata Banerjee expressed her problems through her Finance Minister, demanding a 10-fold hike under the integrated action plan for infrastructure development in Naxal zones.
The stage thus seems set for renewed confrontation over NCTC on May 5.