New Delhi: Opposition chief ministers Narendra Modi, Naveen Patnaik and Jayalalithaa on Monday, in a royal snub to the Centre, held a parallel meet in New Delhi after accusing the Centre of trying to destroy the federal structure.
United by their opposition to the proposed National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), the RPF Act and the BSF Act, arguing that they meddled with the states' powers, Modi and Patnaik met Jayalalithaa to seemingly mount pressure against the Centre's move.
Modi and Patnaik met Jayalalithaa at the Tamil Nadu House separately after attending the Chief Ministers' Conference on Internal Security convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Patnaik was the first to meet Jayalalithaa and the two were closeted for over 25 minutes. After the meeting, Patnaik refused to divulge what transpired at the meeting, merely saying it was a courtesy call as Jayalalithaa is an "old family friend of my father".
Soon after, Modi met Jayalalithaa for 40 minutes and refused to speak to the waiting media. Jayalalithaa also did not speak to the media.
All the three leaders have been against the setting up of NCTC and have expressed their displeasure in public several times. Jayalalithaa and Modi had written to Singh in this regard.
There was no official word on Jayalalithaa's meetings with Modi and Patnaik. However, it is understood that the leaders discussed a joint strategy to target the Centre on NCTC and various other issues.
The meeting assumes significance as non-Congress governments in states are opposing the creation of a counter terrorism centre and proposed amendments to the BSF Act, maintaining that the two infringe upon the states' rights in a federal set up.
Earlier, at the meeting, Jayalalithaa warned against an "emerging pattern" wherein the state's powers are "abrogated" by the Centre through passage of bills and accused it of showing "scant respect" for state governments.
Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was also scheduled to meet Jayalalithaa, but could not make it as he got delayed at the conference.
Expressing similar sentiments, Modi criticised the Centre for its "non-consultative" approach with the state governments on key security issues and accused it of creating "state within state" by bringing amendments to RPF Act, BSF Act which take away powers from the state police and meddling with subjects under the state list.
In his address, Patnaik sought urgent consultations between the Centre and the states over issues like the NCTC, saying any delay would affect handling of law and order.
This show of solidarity amongst the three chief ministers came despite the Prime Minister reaching out to them at the internal security meet held earlier in the day.
While West Bengal Chief Minister and UPA ally Mamata Banerjee skipped the meeting, sources said that West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra would raise the issue of NCTC during the meeting on her behalf. Mitra reportedly demanded the waiving of cost of deployment of paramilitary forces in the Naxal affected districts. Mamata has also protested the Centre's decision to reduce quote of rice for BPL in the state.
In the opening speech at the Chief Ministers' conference on internal security, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that the issue of internal security remains a big challenge in which the states and the Centre must work together and in harmony. On the controversial issue of NCTC, the Prime Minister said that the issue will be discussed on May 5 separately as requested by some Chief Ministers.
"Internal security situation by and large satisfactory since February 2011. Threat from terror, left-wing extremism remains and needs constant vigil. We have to deal with them firmly. In Jammu and Kashmir, there has been perceptible improvement in security environment. Situation in north east remains complex," he said.
In his speech, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said it was a worrying trend that people jump to support terror accused because of their religion. In his inaugural speech at the chief ministers' meet in the capital, the Home Minister said that 18 terror modules have been neutralised in 2011 and 3 in 2012 but the LoC and international borders are still vulnerable.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah raised the issue of AFSPA and called for decreasing footprints of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Omar Abdullah said conciliation and dialogue will always remain the best medium for seeking a solution to all contentious issues.
With additional information from PTI