New Delhi: Angered by the 10-minute limit on her speech, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Thursday walked out of the National Development Council (NDC) meeting, alleging "utter humiliation" and accusing the Centre of "stifling" the voice of Chief Ministers.
The Centre was quick to reject her charges of discrimination, saying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had showed a gesture by giving her chance to speak out of turn, immediately after him, and that the same time limit applied to Congress Chief Ministers as well.
Jayalalithaa left the meeting in a huff to register her "strong protest" against being asked to wind up her address when she was reading out the 10th page of the 28-page speech.
Terming it as "shabby treatment" by the Centre, she argued that a Chief Minister could not speak on the voluminous 12th Plan document in just 10 minutes.
Alleging bias, she said there have been occasions when Chief Ministers "supporting" the UPA government have been allowed to speak even for 30 minutes or more.
In the speech, which was later tabled, she targeted the centre over several issues, like economic policies and FDI in multi-brand retail, and accused it of ignoring suggestions put forth by states by adopting "big brotherly and undemocratic approach".
She said the Manmohan Singh government was "caught up in the daily squabbles of its constituents" and "is merely trying to survive from day-to-day" as a result of which it has "neither the time nor the inclination to pay attention" to the problems of the people of this country.
Justifying her walkout soon after which she left for Chennai, she told reporters, "If this is the way the Centre is going to treat Chief Ministers, the Centre must stop calling such conferences as we have got enough work back home. We have come all the way to Delhi to press on the views of the state."
"...To register my strong protest against the shabby
treatment meted out to a constitutional authority, the elected head of a state, I walked out of the NDC meeting today. I wish to reiterate that it is not fair, it is not democracy. They are stifling the voice of the Chief Ministers who are not supporting the Central Government," Jayalalithaa said.
She said if the Centre is not prepared to give more than 10 minutes to a Chief Minister and "if they are going to humiliate a Chief Minister, it is meaningless and amounts to utter humiliation of a constitutional authority."
The AIADMK chief said the Centre came out with a "new method" of limiting the speeches of Chief Ministers to 10 minutes which was not enough to articulate their views.
In her speech, she said, "No reasonable and legitimate suggestion from the states had been accepted and the big brotherly and undemocratic approach of superimposing on elected state governments the dubious policies, priorities and programmes of a minority ruling coterie in Delhi has prevailed."
She said states get an impression that the government at the Centre is indifferent about reducing poverty and far from serving the common man, it is "conspiring against him by hiking the prices of essential commodities and inputs and appears more focused on facilitating the interests of foreign investors."
She accused the Centre of being "completely ineffective" in playing its constitutional role in ensuring that the final award of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal is duly notified so that it can be implemented and the rights of Tamil Nadu as a lower riparian state are protected.
She also raked up the delay by Centre in granting Digital Addressable System (DAS) licence to state government-owned Arasu Cable TV, saying "a simple request" has not been granted on totally extraneous considerations.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla accused Jayalalithaa of "making an issue out of a non-issue" and said the NDC meeting should be used by Chief Ministers to achieve something for the people of their state.