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New Delhi: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and his counterparts from other non-Congress ruled states heavily criticized the Union government’s bid to set up the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and other programmes at the annual internal security conference of state chief ministers in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Modi’s aggression was bolstered by his party’s sweep of all six seats in by-elections held in Gujarat on Wednesday. All six seats used to be held by the Congress.

The wins came amid speculation that Modi may be declared head of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) election campaign committee at the national executive and council meeting scheduled to be held in Goa later this week. His meetings with party president Rajnath Singh and veteran leader L.K. Advani fuelled speculation about his new role.

“It will definitely bolster his chances at the national level. The party might name him as head of the election campaign committee and yet not declare him the prime ministerial candidate," said Mumbai-based political analyst Jai Mrug.

At the New Delhi conference, Modi sharpened his attack against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on issues related to internal security.

“NCTC is just another super structure in the maze of already existing institutions," he said. “I fear that it will be another institution of the Centre for political misuse against opposition ruled states. The proposed structure of NCTC is not in congruence with the principal of federalism."

In remarks made to reporters, Modi demanded that the Union government draw up an action taken report on the outcome of meetings on internal security held in the last 10 years.

Modi found support among counterparts from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal, states that are ruled by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) or regional parties that do not support the UPA government.

These states have bitterly opposed NCTC since the plan’s inception, alleging that it would be used by the Union government to encroach on their federal powers.

“I regret to say that despite all-round opposition, the central government is bent upon setting up NCTC. Of course, certain amendments have been made in the proposed new order, still they do not resolve the practical difficulties," said Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan.

Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, whose speech was read out at the conference, said: “Union home ministry’s proposal reveals a total lack of understanding of ground realities and big brotherly attitude that sought to make mockery of all democratic norms and attempted to reduce democratically elected state governments to the status of pawns on a chess board."

The Union government has been trying to build a consensus in favour of the proposed anti-terror body for the last two years. Following criticism, it even watered down the draft architecture of the proposed body, by moving it out of the ambit of the Intelligence Bureau and agreed to take state forces on board while conducting raids and searches.

Surprisingly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose cabinet colleagues have been aggressively pushing the idea of NCTC, failed to mention the agency in his inauguration speech to chief ministers.

“I think each one of us needs to be completely objective in our approach to these issues (terrorism and communal violence), acting in national interest, rising above narrow political and ideological divides. I would appeal to all political parties and all sections of society to work together to find effective ways and means of meeting these grave challenges," he said.

However, finance minister P. Chidambaram, who envisaged NCTC in his earlier stint as home minister, took exception to Modi’s scathing remarks.

“I am afraid the kind of seriousness that we should give to NCTC is lost. And I deeply regret that a couple of chief ministers opposed the NCTC even in the present modified version. If this NCTC is opposed, I am afraid, as I said, the country will pay a price from time to time," he said.

Other matters that were discussed included Maoist violence in the wake of the attack on state Congress leaders in Chhattisgarh, while home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde warned of attempts to rekindle Sikh militancy in the country.

PTI contributed to the story.

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