In an angry letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi — with charges of ignoring states' rights, besides jibes over price-rise, bulldozers and communal statements — Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao (or 'KCR') today said he will not attend the August 7 meeting of NITI Aayog's governing council "as a mark of strong protest". PM is the chairperson of the government's policy thinktank.
The NITI Aayog called his decision "unfortunate", and countered some of the allegations made by the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) boss. In a note to the press, it said a delegation led by the Aayog's vice-chairperson had met him in Hyderabad on January 2021 “to discuss development issues pertaining to the state”, but he "did not respond" to recent requests for more such meetings.
KCR's boycott of the governance council meet in Delhi, however, is only the latest in a series of his attacks on the BJP-led central government. Other regional parties — such as Tamil Nadu's DMK and Bengal's Trinamool Congress — have been making allegations similar to his, though they haven't boycotted the meeting.
In his letter, KCR said the Aayog was started "with the lofty objective of bringing the states on the same page with the Centre". "Because of no planning and no spirit of cooperative federalism, the country is passing through a most difficult phase with unprecedented problems of falling rupee value, high inflation, skyrocketing prices and increasing unemployment, coupled with low economic growth," he wrote.
He described Telangana as one of the "trailblazing states". At a press conference later, he added to this: "Don't curtail the progress of the progressing states. Development of any inch of the country is the development of the nation."
Weak states will be a weak Nation— YSR (@ysathishreddy) August 6, 2022
Strong states will be a strong Nation
- CM #KCR@KTRTRS@email@example.com/kLMvawfyXA
The letter upfront reminded PM Modi of a key recommendation by the group of CMs in the NITI Aayog — that states be given flexibility to design or modify central schemes. "Not all schemes... by the mandarins of Delhi, serve their intended purpose."
About Telangana specifically, he cited recommendations from "way back in 2016" — to give funds for irrigation and drinking-water schemes — that haven't been followed. "These examples are sufficient to say that the institution of NITI Aayog is rendered useless."
The Aayog said the allegation that states were not co-opted in preparation of the August 7 meeting agenda "is incorrect”. “Detailed consultations between Centre and states, including Telangana, were held resulting in the first National Chief Secretaries Conference held in Dharamshala in June 2022,” its statement said. It also that said allocation of funds to Telangana under central schemes went up by "more than double" since 2015.
KCR's letter, though, was not limited to Centre-state relations.
He also slammed the Modi government for inaction over "irresponsible utterances of some leaders in high positions on use of bulldozers, encounter killings, 80:20 ratios and references with religious undertones... (that) are disrupting the communal harmony and the social fabric of the nation, besides inviting international criticism".
He cited "the one-sided decision to bring the new farm laws" — which were repealed after a year-long protest by farmers — to say that federalism "is deliberately disregarded".
"I do not find it useful to attend (the meeting)... and I am staying away from it as a mark of strong protest against the present trend of central government to discriminate against the states and not treating them as equal partners in our collective effort to make India a strong and developed country," he signed off.