New Delhi: The deadlock over formation of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) continued on Saturday with chief ministers of several states strongly registered their opposition to the proposed anti-terror body advocated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram.
A day-long meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister P Chidambaram with chief ministers failed to convince the dissenting chief ministers, including some from the UPA.
Making a strong pitch for the formation of NCTC, the Prime Minister stressed that the setting up of the NCTC was not a state versus Centre issue. “NCTC will work as a vehicle of country`s combined efforts to curb terrorism”, he said.
Stressing that NCTC will supplement the counter- terrorism capabilities of the states and not supplant them, Singh asked the state governments to work in tandem with the Centre in dealing with terrorism.
In his speech, the Home Minister, the prime mover of the NCTC proposal, said terrorists do not recognise boundaries and the Centre and State governments have to work together to make the country safe and secure.
"We have to work together. I am confident we can make the country more safe and more secure," Chidambaram said.
The Home Minister pointed out that there are cases where, despite inputs regarding the presence of terrorists, the security agencies concerned did not act either due to lack of capacity or lack of a timely decision.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh vehemently opposed the anti-terror agency saying that the Centre was trying to play as an “undisputed leader”.
Interestingly, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is among the front-runners to oppose the NCTC despite being a partner in the ruling UPA, stuck to her stand against NCTC`s controversial powers of search, seizure and arrest.
Accusing the Centre of behaving like "Viceroys of yore", Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said the constitution of NCTC is a conscious strategy to cast the Centre as an "omnipresent" ruler with states portrayed as dependent vassals.
Strongly opposing the Centre`s plan for setting up an NCTC, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said it "violates" the principle of federalism and the structure adopted for it suffers from "serious and basic flaws".
Rejecting the NCTC in its present form, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa blasted the Home Ministry, saying it was trying to "belittle" the state governments and treating them as "pawns on a chess board" instead of addressing "gaps and deficiencies" in counter terrorism capabilities.
Opposing the formation of NCTC, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said it was against the federal structure of the Constitution.
Slamming the Centre for taking a unilateral decision on the formation of NCTC, Mamata Banerjee said such institutions "upset" the federal structure of the country and was "not acceptable" to the state.
In his closing remarks, Chidambaram said he was "leaving the meeting with an open mind" and the Centre would take a decision on concerns of the chief ministers.
Briefing reporters, he said all the Chief Ministers recognised the need for an NCTC or a similar organisation.
"As expected, there was strong support for NCTC by many Chief Ministers, qualified support from many CMs and outright rejection of the idea by three CMs."
He said the principal concerns were one why is it located in the IB and two why do personnel of NCTC or a similar organisation have to undertake, even on an exceptional circumstances, operations on its own?
"We will examine the two issues...Why it will be under IB and why it will carry out operations under exceptional circumstances...And the government will take a final decision," he said.
He parried questions on a timeline for implementing his pet project that has been kept on hold ever since non-Congress chief ministers raised strong opposition.