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Delhi CM Narendra Modi with Tripura’s Manik Sarkar on Wednesday. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Delhi CM Narendra Modi with Tripura’s Manik Sarkar on Wednesday. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Arvind Kejriwal meets chief ministers for more power to the states

Meetings with West Bengal's Mamata Banerjee and Tripura's Manik Sarkar aimed at forming a non-BJP, non-Congress coalition

New Delhi: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday held a meeting with the chief ministers of West Bengal and Tripura to form a coalition of states ruled by non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and non-Congress parties and demand greater decentralization.

In the first such meeting anchored by Kejriwal, six states participated. The highlight was the participation of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Tripura’s Manik Sarkar, whose parties—Trinamool Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist), respectively—are rivals.

Both Banerjee and Sarkar met Kejriwal separately to discuss the issue of cooperative federalism. Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who could not attend the meeting owing to the election campaign in the state, Mizoram chief minister Lal Thanhawla and Puducherry chief minister N. Rangasamy sent letters supporting the cause.

The meeting comes amid rising tensions between Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government and the central government led by the BJP.

“Since a government has been formed in Delhi, there has been interference in other states as well. The purpose of this exercise is that we aren’t against the central government but want to work with them. The centre can never be strong if the states are weak. Separation of powers are very clear in the Constitution. According to the Constitution, the powers given to authorities are clear. There is a lot of diversity in the country. The country cannot be run from Delhi alone. There will have to be complete decentralization," Kejriwal told reporters at the end of the meeting. The meeting was called to discuss cooperative federalism and centre-state relations.

Attacking the central government for seeking to run what she called a “parallel government" in her state, Banerjee said, “State governments are also elected members. Ruling party members from central government are threatening them. They are making political statements. The prime minister must take care of all these things. Anyone can run a parallel government from the governor’s house."

Banerjee, who addressed a press conference with Kejriwal, added, “They have abolished the Planning Commission. The state government consultations have stopped. National developmental conference has been stopped. They have made a NITI Aayog but that should take every one along and work. NITI Aayog only meets on Swachh Bharat; while that is important, there are so many other departments other than Swachh Bharat."

The West Bengal chief minister invited the chief ministers to a similar meeting in Kolkata.

Since assuming power in February, Kejriwal has been reaching out to regional and other political leaders, including Banerjee, Communist party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Nitish Kumar and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav.

Political analysts played down the significance of the meeting.

“In principle, this may be a Third Front but in terms of possibility, it is unlikely. They are diametrically opposite and ideological incompatibility will be a problem," Bidyut Chakraborty, a professor of political science at the University of Delhi, said.

“It may be an oppositional front to the BJP, but oppositional fronts usually do not have a long life span."

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