Chief Ministers of 11 States including those of Bihar, West Bengal, Delhi, Punjab did not attend the 8th governing council meeting of NITI Aayog held in New Delhi on Saturday. While NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer BVR Subramanian said that absence meant missing rich discussion, BJP criticised the boycott by Chief Ministers.

“Not participating means missing rich discussion. However, we do not differentiate in overall policy making (on the basis of participations),” Subramanian said in a press conference post the day-long meeting. While many of Opposition-ruled States had already announced not taking part in the meeting, Chief Ministers of Rajasthan and Odisha pulled out at last moment because of personal reasons. Chief Ministers of Opposition-ruled States such as Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) lashed out at Chief Ministers who boycotted the meeting, calling their decision “anti-people” and “irresponsible”. Addressing a press conference, senior BJP leader and former Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the NITI Aayog is a key body for determining the entire objective, policy framework and roadmap for the development of the country.

He said as many as 100 issues are proposed to be discussed in the eighth governing council meeting of the NITI Aayog but Chief Ministers of eight States are not coming to attend it. Prasad said chief ministers Arvind Kejriwal, Bhagwant Mann, Mamata Banerjee, Nitish Kumar, MK Stalin, K Chandrashekar Rao are among those not attending the meet.

Important forum

The BJP leader said NITI Aayog is a very important forum to have a wide-ranging consultative process among the Centre, States and and Union Territories and key decisions are taken at its governing council meeting for their implementation on the ground.

That is why the Prime Minister presides over this meeting and senior ministers from the Centre also attend it so that decisions are held on larger issues with suggestions of the Chief Ministers for their implementation on the ground, he added. “Why are they not coming to attend the meeting where 100 issues are to be discussed? If such a large number of Chief Ministers do not participate, they are not bringing the voice of their States,” Prasad said.

In the meantime, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar blamed the Centre for his inability to attend the NITI Aayog meeting on Saturday where he wished to raise issues like caste census and special status for the State. “When I received the schedule of the NITI Aayog meet I sought a change in the timings since it clashed with a function in Patna. They (the Centre), however, did not agree to change the timing of the Niti Aayog meeting. Had they even agreed to hold the meeting in the afternoon, I would have been able to attend,” he told reporters.

Though, there is no official statement on why Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik from the State government, but according to agency reports sources in the PMO said that he could not attend due to prior commitment