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MAMATA’S NITI BOYCOTT 

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, licking the wounds of the Lok Sabha poll defeats in West Bengal, is proving again that she’s ready for more fights. The CM has rejected a call from the Centre to attend the Niti Aayog meet in New Delhi on June 15. She, as CM has been keeping away from its meetings for the last four years in a protest over the way the Planning Commission was disbanded and this new entity formed in its place by the first Modi government on January 1, 2015.

Like the Planning Commission, Niti Aayog is a forum where representatives of the Centre and states sit with economists, discuss and decide on priorities in the matter of new projects, funds allocation to states thereof and aspects of implementation. By consistently keeping away from a decidedly valuable forum where important recommendations are crafted and sent to the Union Government, the West Bengal Chief Minister is doing a disservice to the state and the people she governs.

It is fully justified on the part of a chief minister to protest the disbandment of an entity like the Planning Commission, which had acquired a great clout over the past many decades after Independence. Though not many are fully convinced as to what difference this change entails, its acceptability is that an elected government decided to change the status quo. Chances were also that the Modi government wanted to bury a vestige of the Nehru era and replace it with a new entity. Time alone will confirm whether this was the right step or not.

At the same time, a state by itself or a chief minister alone cannot throw up a challenge to a new central system or write it off. If a collective of states makes an issue out of Niti Aayog, or its relevance thereof, this is understandable. It is through resistance that India won its freedom. Dissent and resistance are accepted parts of the democratic process. However, one CM alone cannot seek to call the shots from a state capital in ways as to affect the functioning of national institutions.

The fight with the Centre has been one field in which West Bengal excelled for many decades. The Left which ruled the state for 34 years did so with great vigour and left the state in a total mess. What was the centre of the British Empire, West Bengal is now listed among the poorest states in India. The past four decades were, thus, a period of excessive negativism.

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