Karnataka CM’s meeting with PM Modi was fruitful and he didn’t want to antagonise the Centre.

 

Uncertainty prevails over the future of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu’s plans to float a federal front before the next general elections in 2019. Naidu’s plan to boycott Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech at the Niti Aayog’s governing council meeting in New Delhi last week suffered a jolt as Karnataka CM and JD(S) leader H.D. Kumaraswamy differed with him.

Sources close to Naidu told this newspaper that the AP CM wanted to mobilise the support of all non-BJP CMs for his plan to stage a boycott from the Niti Aayog meeting, which would have demonstrated the strength of the proposed federal front at the national level. However, other non-BJP CMs did not show much interest in boycotting the PM’s speech as it would hurt the interests of their states.

A senior aide to the AP CM shared the details of how the boycott plan was vetoed by other CMs who were contacted for the purpose. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Karnataka CM Kumaraswamy and Puducherry CM Narayanaswamy were contacted for the boycott plan but the situation changed in the last minute.

As per the plan, Naidu wanted to speak after the PM’s inaugural speech and then stage a walkout in protest against the Centre “trampling upon the rights of the states”, especially in the wake of the terms and references of the 15th Finance Commission. Both Mamata and Kumaraswamy had initially agreed to the proposal, but later, Kumaraswamy changed his mind, the sources said.

Only a few days before that Kumaraswamy had got an appointment with the PM and he had received an assurance that the demands of Karnataka would be solved very soon by the Centre. Kumaraswamy was satisfied with the PM’s response at the meeting and didn’t want the goodwill to be evaporated so soon through the Niti Aayog boycott.

Mamata was in two minds on boycotting the Niti meeting as she was keen on securing some assurances from the Centre to the state’s needs. She wanted to separate federal front politics from developmental agenda at Niti Aayog.

Kumaraswamy was also uncomfortable to join hands with Naidu at the Niti Aayog particularly at a time when his government ally, Congress CM of Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh was not involved in the boycott plan. Singh, sources said, had a cordial chat with the PM and was actively involved with the Niti Aayog’s agenda at the meeting.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s preoccupation with his protest too had an impact on Naidu’s boycott plans. Had Kejriwal been present on the day, the boycott plan would have gathered momentum, said the senior adviser to the AP government. Finally, Naidu limited his political activism to calling on the family of Kejriwal along with Mamata and Kumaraswamy.

As there was no political cooperation from other CMs, Naidu decided to stick to his speech at the Niti Aayog governing council and focus on issues pertaining to AP.

Naidu drew flak back home in AP for not implementing his boycott plan at Niti Aayog meeting as opposition YSR Congress spokesman Ambati Rambabu said that the CM appeared to have developed a cold feet at the last minute. Ramababu released to media a picture in which Naidu was so obediently greeting the PM at the Niti Aayog meeting.

“We know that our CM couldn’t boycott the PM’s speech at Niti Aayog meeting, but we will get many such occasions in future and hope to secure the support of other CMs,” said the official adviser, preferring anonymity. But, at the political level, some TDP MPs are wary of the future ways of Kumaraswamy in the name of protecting interests of Karnataka.

For the sake of preserving unity among the regional parties, Naidu and TDP leaders have decided to underplay the boycott plan at Niti Aayog last week. “We never announced that we will boycott the Niti Aayog meeting. That was just one of the ideas to get attention to our just demands and we have succeeded in it without a boycott,” said TDP MP Nimmala Kistappa.

 

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