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No Bengal representative at Niti Aayog meeting today

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KOLKATA, May 26 (PTI): West Bengal will not have any representative at the Niti Aayog meeting in New Delhi on Saturday as the TMC government’s request to send the state finance minister and the chief secretary was “turned down” by the Centre, which “insisted” that chief minister Mamata Banerjee may attend the event.

Banerjee has already decided not to attend the eighth governing council meeting of Niti Aayog.

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Confirming the development, state finance minister Chandrima Bhattacharya told PTI, “We had requested the Centre to allow me and the chief secretary to attend the meeting as Mamata Banerjee is busy with some other work. In its reply, the Centre said the ‘CM may attend’. This is an indirect way of not allowing anybody other than the CM to attend the meeting. Hence, there will be no representative of West Bengal at tomorrow’s meeting.”

“If the chief minister of the state is preoccupied with some other work, can’t she send any minister or official on her behalf? After all, I am the finance minister of the state and can represent the state. I do not understand the logic of not allowing the finance minister to attend the Niti Aayog meeting,” she said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also the chairman of Niti Aayog, is scheduled to chair the meeting.

The Niti Aayog’s governing council comprises chief ministers of all states and Union Territories with legislatures, and lieutenant governors of other UTs, besides several Union ministers.

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Bhattacharya alleged that it was the Centre’s “ploy” not to hear West Bengal’s demands for release of its due funds.

“The Centre alleges that we do not share with them the details of our expenses. Now, when we are ready to participate in the Niti Aayog meeting, they are not allowing us. We would have carried with us details of our expenses.

“Also, I think this is a way of stopping West Bengal from placing its demands for clearing its dues. Our CM has been very vocal on this issue for a long time,” she said.

Banerjee’s decision to skip the meeting came a day after the decisions of the Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and CPI and CPI(M) to boycott the inauguration of the new Parliament building by the PM on May 28.

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She had earlier this month expressed interest in participating in the Niti Aayog meeting and said that she will highlight the issue of the state being allegedly deprived by the Centre.

The Trinamool Congress supremo had in March staged a two-day sit-in demonstration in Kolkata to protest the alleged discrimination by the Centre.

Incidentally, Banerjee had in 2019 skipped the Niti Aayog meeting, saying that the think-tank has no power and the meetings were “fruitless”.

Delhi and Punjab CMs Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Singh Mann respectively met Banerjee at the West Bengal secretariat on Tuesday to seek support for the Delhi government’s fight against the Centre over an ordinance on the control of administrative services in the national capital.

Banerjee assured the two AAP leaders that TMC will support Kejriwal in his fight against the central ordinance to control appointments and transfer of bureaucrats in Delhi.

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