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'Fruitless' to attend Niti Aayog meeting, Mamata writes to PM

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Kolkata, Jun 7 : West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing her inability to attend the scheduled Niti Aayog meeting on June 15, saying it was "fruitless" as the body does not have the power to support state plans.

"Given the fact that the Niti Aayog has no financial powers and the power to support state plans it is fruitless for me to attend the meeting of a body that is bereft of any financial powers," Banerjee said in a letter to the prime minister.

The chief minister also suggested that focus should be shifted to the Inter-State Council (ISC) to deepen cooperative federalism and strengthen federal polity.

"The experience of last four-and-half years we had with Niti Aayog brings me back to my earlier suggestion to you that we focus on Inter-State Council constituted under Article 263 of Constitution, with appropriate modifications to enable ISC to discharge its augmented range of functions as the nodal entity of the country," she said.

"This will deepen cooperative federalism and strengthen federal polity. May I also reiterate that the National Development Council, which has been a quite burial, may also be subsumed within the broadened constitutional body of the Inter-State Council," the chief minister said.

Modi is set to chair the fifth meeting of the Niti Aayog's Governing Council on June 15 to discuss various issues regarding the country's development.

Earlier too, Banerjee had skipped meetings of the policy think-tank, expressing displeasure over the dissolution of the Planning Commission and creation of a new structure.

She had sent West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra to represent the state at the meeting.

In her letter, Banerjee said the formation of Niti Aayog was unilaterally announced without any discussion with chief ministers.

She cited examples of statements made by Niti Aayog officials and a former Union minister stressing the need to give the think-tank the power to allocate funds, as part of the efforts to address regional imbalances.

Banerjee's decision of not attending Niti Aayog meeting comes amid heightened political tussle between the TMC and the Bharatiya Janata Party in West Bengal.

With the saffron party bagging 18 out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in the general elections, its leaders have asserted that they would overthrow the Trinamool Congress government in the 2021 assembly polls.

The TMC, which had won 34 seats in 2014, was able to secure 22 seats this time.

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