The Andhra CM is in touch with his counterparts in West Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala and wants them to join him.

 

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP president N. Chandrababu Naidu is planning to embarrass Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Niti (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog’s 4th Governing Council meting at Rashtrapathi Bhavan in Delhi on 17 June, Sunday, by staging a walkout from the gathering along with some other like-minded Chief Ministers.

According to sources close to him, the Chief Minister will rise immediately after the PM’s speech and register his protest against the Centre’s policies “which were harming the interests of the states” and leave the meeting hall along with his official delegation. Naidu is in touch with the Chief Ministers of Bengal, Karnataka and Kerala on this since two days.

Naidu, who parted ways with the BJP-led NDA three months ago, is angry with the Centre’s stand not to grant special category status to Andhra as per the assurance given by the previous UPA-2 regime at the bifurcation of the state in 2014. By staging a walkout from the Niti Aayog meeting, Naidu believes it will fetch him political dividends in this election year.

The Niti Aayog Governing Council meeting was originally scheduled for Saturday, but Naidu wrote a letter on Wednesday urging its vice-chairman Rajiv Kumar for postponing the meet on account of the festival of Eid, to either 18 June, Monday, or at least 17 June, Sunday. The vice-chairman immediately rescheduled the council meet, which will be chaired and inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi.

All the Union Ministers, Chief Ministers and Lieutenant Governors of union territories will participate in the meeting. The agenda of the meeting will include the Centre’s plans to double the income of farmers in the country, strengthening flagship schemes like Ayushman Bharat, National Nutritional Mission and celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi beginning this October.

PM Modi, in his address, is expected to focus on his government’s efforts to double the income of farmers and solve rural distress. As Niti Aayog is the brainchild of the PM, this Governing Council address is crucial for him ahead of next year’s elections. But the Opposition camp is keen on denying the PM this advantage and show how “the BJP-led NDA government had overruled the states” on many issues. Naidu on Friday held a meeting of TDP MPs at Amaravati where it was decided to discuss the walkout option with other like-minded CMs.

Officials in AP have prepared a detailed note on the assurances given to the state at the time of the bifurcation and how the “Centre has gone back on several of its promises in the last four years”.  Initially, there were indications that there would be a separate meeting between the PM and the AP CM on the sidelines of the Governing Council meeting, but later there was no confirmation. An official from the AP CM’s office told this newspaper that Naidu had not sought any one-on-one meeting with the PM.

Naidu wants to utilise this opportunity of the Niti Aayog meeting to highlight the “injustice done to AP” in the last four years. TDP MP from Guntur Galla Jayadev told the media at Amaravati on Friday that the party would again give a notice for no-confidence motion against the Modi government at the coming Monsoon Session of Parliament. TDP MPs, too, will accompany Naidu to Delhi on Sunday and will coordinate with the leaders of Congress and other regional parties to see if their CMs, too, can join the walkout.

Sources said the CMs of Punjab, Puducherry and Delhi were contacted, but their response is awaited. Naidu, for the time being, has decided not to contact Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao on this issue. Efforts are underway to seek the support of Congress president Rahul Gandhi to this walkout plan. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is interested in denying the PM any mileage at the Niti Aayog meeting, sources in TDP said. Naidu is in two minds on walking out of the meet if no other CM joins him on this plan, said his aides.

 

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