West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee skipped the fifth meeting of the Governing Council of the NITI Aayog chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi here on Saturday.
On Banerjee's absence, NITI Aayog Vice Chairman Rajiv Kumar said: "I tried very hard in persuading her to be on board for the meeting, but could not succeed. We were looking forward to her contribution as West Bengal is a very important state for us. But, I am afraid that I could not get her to participate in the meeting."
Similarly, Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao also skipped the meeting, citing an extremely busy schedule in connection with the inauguration of an irrigation project in state. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, citing health reasons, also did not attend.
Banerjee had earlier termed the meeting as "fruitless", and refused to attend it. She conveyed her decision in a letter to PM Modi. In the 3-page letter, she said it is "simply useless" to participate in a meeting where agenda is fixed by the Centre, and the views of the states are not treated at par.
While talking to reporters in West Bengal, the Chief Minister, drawing a comparison between the Planning Commission and NITI Aayog, said that the former was more effective in sorting out development challenges, and sought its return. She said that the Planning Commission had a bottom-up strategy, wherein states were consulted to solve development challenges and resource mobilization.
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