Modi seeks panel of CMs to push national agenda

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Wants consensus on price management, security

Prime minister Narendra Modi proposes to set up a standing committee of chief ministers and involve the state governments in key policy issues, including economic management.

The proposed panel of chief ministers will provide the government with a formal mechanism to push “cooperative federalism” in running national affairs.

Officials in the know say Modi will be writing to all chief ministers shortly seeking their involvement in managing national priorities. He may also convene an early meet of chief ministers to formalise a mechanism to involve them in policy formulation.

Management of wholesale and retail prices that have been rising at double digits in past two years is expected to top Modi’s agenda for discussion with chief ministers.

Latest WPI data show inflation rising 6.01 per cent in May on the back of steep increase in prices of fuel and key food items.

The BJP government is not averse to providing fiscal incentives to states matching their contribution to rein-in prices and removing supply-side constraints for vegetables, pulses and edible oils.

Modi is also likely to seek chief ministers’ counsel on internal security issues, particularly on tackling Maoist violence in 10 states labelled as the “red corridor”.

Other security issues pertaining to the North-East and incursions by the Chinese army in Jammu & Kashmir, the vulnerability of coastal states to terror attacks may also be put up for discussions.

Modi is keen to hasten the resolution of key policy issues that have been traditionally under the Centre’s jurisdiction by involving the state governments.

Inputs and recommendations will also be invited on important economic, administrative and social sector reforms that the Modi government proposes to pursue in the next five years. This is aimed at easing the passage of key bills in the upper house of Parliament where the BJP and its allies are not in majority.

For instance, legislation related to the direct tax code (DTC), goods and services tax (GST), financial sector reforms need backing from the non-BJP-ruled states to pass muster in Rajya Sabha.

“The PMO has been working on the idea of setting up the chief ministers panel for some weeks now,” the official quoted earlier said without wishing to be identified by name.

“It will take some time before detailed work programme is drawn up for the chief ministers,” the official said.

While finance minister Arun Jaitley has met state finance ministers as part of the budget-making exercise, Modi may seek chief ministers’ counsel on key issues like taxes, major infrastructure projects and even the bullet train project.

The BJP’s election manifesto had proposed that states would be partners in central government’s key decisions. Even in the first Lok Sabha speech, Narendra Modi had assured that states would play an active role at the Centre.

Modi has already publicly praised chief ministers Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), J Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu) and Raman Singh (Chattisgarh) for the “good work” being done in their respective governments.

“My sister Mamata Banerjee is working really hard to undo the damage done in the past 35 years in West Bengal,” Modi said. He praised rainwater-harvesting model pursued by Tamil Nadu and public distribution system in Chattisgarh, apart from Sikkim evolving as an organic food centre. Modi has assured that his government would adopt “best practices in the states”.

Last week, the government wrote sought details of Jayalalithaa’s “amma unavagam” — the subsidised meal scheme. Heavily subsidised canteens set up by the Jayalalithaa government provide breakfast at Re 1 per idli, and lunch comprising sambar rice at Rs 5 and curd rice at Rs 3.

In his address to a joint sitting of Parliament, President pitched for cooperative federalism where the centre would play “an enabling role in the progress of states”. He had mooted the idea of the states and centre functioning like “an organic team India”.


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