New Delhi: In yet another test for the Congress-led UPA government, the Parliament will on Thursday vote on the proposal to set up a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC)- a move which has seen stiff opposition from both BJP-ruled states and some Congress alliance partners.
The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also make a statement on the controversial subject while replying to the three-day discussion in the Lok Sabha on the motion of thanks to the President today following which it will be put to vote.
Today’s vote comes two days after a Trinamool Congress (TMC) amendment to the President`s address seeking deletion of the reference to the controversial anti-terror intelligence hub was rejected on technical grounds, saving the UPA government from further embarrassment.
TMC chief Mamata Banerjee had put up an "objection" to a para in the President`s address which refers to the NCTC, an issue over which the party has joined hands with the opposition and some non-Congress Chief Ministers.
The logjam over the formation of NCTC continues as non-Congress ruled states have asked the Centre not to create an all powerful unit as it could reduce the role of police forces in countering terrorism.
The chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, including Gujarat CM Narendra Modi, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Himachal Pradesh’s Prem Kumar Dhumal have joined the anti-NCTC (National Counter-Terrorism Centre) chorus along with the CM’s of non-Congress states — Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalitha and Orissa CM Naveen Patnaik. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and TDP chief M. Chandra Babu Naidu have also criticised the setting up of the apex counter terror organisation saying it is against the federal autonomy.
Though the main Opposition BJP claims that opposition to the NCTC is a “virtual no-confidence” against the UPA, it however, insists that it will support any step taken by the Centre to fight terror, provided states are kept in the loop.
Non-Congress states have been trying to forge a common ground to oppose Home Minister P. Chidambaram`s project for a centralised agency to maintain data of terror modules, terrorists, their associates, friends, families and supporters.
The agency has the legal authority to make arrests and conduct search operations in terror-related cases while keeping state police concerned into the loop. It derives its powers from the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
The chief ministers of the non-congress States maintain that the Intelligence Bureau is already doing what NCTC is supposed to do and that there is no need to give power of arrest to the new agency.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was the first to oppose the idea after the cabinet on January 11 granted an approval for the setting up of the agency.
In a bid to allay apprehension that the NCTC is not against the federal autonomy, Home Minister P Chidambaram had written back to the chief ministers opposing the move.
Chidambaram had assured that the NCTC would merely be given bare minimum power for operational reason under the existing act and state police would be kept in the loop in case sleuths of the agency make any arrests or search operations.