Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao addressing a press conference at Pragathi Bhavan. (By Arrangement)
HYDERABAD: Chief Minister K. Chandrashekar Rao on Saturday announced that he was boycotting the Niti Aayog’s Governing Council meeting on Sunday. Declaring that nothing concrete ever came out of the Niti Aayog meetings, Chandrashekar Rao said, "It is a waste of breath." Terming the institution a ‘bhajana mandali (cheerleading squad)," Chandrashekar Rao stopped short of directly calling it toothless and useless, but left no one in doubt.
The Chief Minister was addressing a press conference at Pragathi Bhavan, where he also released an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which he listed out various reasons why attending the meeting would be useless. In the letter, Chandrashekar Rao said, "I do not find it useful to attend the 7th Governing Council meeting of Niti Aayog…. and I am staying away from it as a mark of strong protest against the present trend of the Central government to discriminate against the states and not treating them as equal partners in our collective effort to make India a strong and developed country."
Chandrashekar Rao said his boycott decision was not because he had any personal bones to pick with Modi but it was about raising his voice against him for the people of the country. "Let the country discuss why the Telangana Chief Minister has boycotted the meeting. Let the Prime Minister be angry with me. My protest is my message to the nation," he told reporters.
The Chief Minister’s objections to Niti Aayog’s functioning primarily revolved around the Centre ignoring the institution’s recommendations, and not giving states the freedom to pitch their needs to Niti Aayog based on their specific local requirements. "Chief Ministers do not get enough time to speak, and after a few minutes a bell rings saying you should stop now. Niti Aayog was set up as a replacement for the Planning Commission of India as a step towards cooperative federalism but there is no sign of it," he said.
He also said the federal structure was being undermined deliberately by the Centre, and progressive states were being penalised forgetting the fact that development in any state contributed to the overall development of India. He also slammed the Centre for ignoring the Niti Aayog’s recommendations to provide grants of `23,205 crore for Mission Kakatiya and Mission Bhagiratha, two schemes that were described by the Niti Aayog as pioneering in the country.
These, he said, are among the reasons why he was boycotting the meeting. "Let the Prime Minister know what the majority of people are thinking. The Centre must change its attitude. My protest is aimed at that," he said.
Chandrashekar Rao also took objection to the Centre changing norms for borrowings by states, hitting progressive states like Telangana, and how the Centre was robbing states of their due share of tax revenues by renaming shareable taxes as ‘cesses’ and keeping this stream of revenue for itself.