The latest panic attack for the Congress comes once again courtesy Mamata Banerjee. The West Bengal chief minister, who has made a habit of publicly challenging the policies of the UPA, has taken on the government once again over its new anti-terror agency.
Ms Banerjee has asked her MPs to move amendments to the address delivered by President Pratibha Patil to Parliament yesterday. She wants the reference to the new National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) deleted. The President's address, which outlines the agenda of the government, formally launched the Budget session of Parliament.
Ms Banerjee has been the Group Captain for ten chief ministers who have objected to the NCTC on the grounds that its powers encroach upon those of state governments. The centre has delayed the commissioning of the NCTC till an extensive dialogue is completed with states. In the Lok Sabha today, Home Minister P Chidambaram defended the NCTC. "I believe NCTC is an absolute necessity; I do not believe it violates the federal structure," said Mr Chidambaram.
President Patil had said in para 91 of her speech , "The National Intelligence Grid and the National Counter Terrorism Centre aim to improve India's capability to counter internal security threats." Because state governments have not lifted their objections to the NCTC, Ms Banerjee's party wants its mention to be removed.
Ms Banerjee late last year forced the government to suspend its reforms in retail just days after they were announced. With her 19 MPs, she is an indispensable partner in the UPA. She also accused the centre of violating the principles of federalism late last year, when the centre introduced the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha. Though the bill was passed there, it has yet to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha. She also accused the centre of violating the principles of federalism late last year, when the centre introduced the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha. Though the bill was passed there, it has yet to be cleared by the Rajya Sabha.
Though Ms Banerjee has said that she remains committed to the UPA, her recent gestures suggest she is not closed to exploring other options. She accepted invites to the swearing-in ceremonies for Akhilesh Yadav in UP and the Akali-BJP government in Punjab; the Congress took offense. Later, she said she would send representatives instead.