Centre Braces for Stormy NITI Aayog Meet Today as Oppn CMs Look to Corner PM Modi on Delhi Deadlock

Addressing the media after the meeting, Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog, Rajiv Kumar acknowledged that the chief ministers want more and regular interaction with NITI Aayog

New Delhi: A crucial meeting of the NITI Aayog on Sunday may turn out to be a platform for yet another show of strength by the opposition as four non-NDA, non-Congress chief ministers gear up to raise the political impasse in Delhi with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The full meeting of NITI Aayog’s Governing Council will be chaired by Modi and the customary interaction of participants with the Prime Minister may be used by the four chief ministers — Mamata Banerjee, Chandrababu Naidu, Pinarayi Vijayan and HD Kumaraswamy — to seek central intervention in ending the deadlock between Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Anil Baijal over an alleged strike by IAS officers.

The four regional heavyweights from West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Karnataka have rallied behind Kejriwal and sought the Centre’s intervention to end the “constitutional crisis”.

Their request for permission to meet Kejriwal, who is on a sit-in at the Lieutenant Governor's office for a week, was verbally denied, after which the quartet reached Kejriwal’s home.

The image of the four chief ministers in conversation at the Andhra Bhavan was telling as two of them — Trinamool’s Banerjee and Left’s Vijayan — set aside regional differences to show solidarity with Kejriwal.

The open support to Kejriwal by the Trinamool Congress, Telugu Desam Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Janata Dal (Secular) comes amid opposition efforts to cobble together a rainbow coalition ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

“We want this problem to be solved. This has become a constitutional crisis. Ultimately, if this problem is not solved, the people will face issues. If this is happening in the capital, then what will happen in other states? We will meet the prime minister tomorrow (Sunday) and request him to intervene and solve the problem," Banerjee said on the eve of the NITI Aayog meeting.

The solidarity shown by the four chief ministers is also a message to the Congress, which aims to anchor the non-BJP front in the next general elections. Despite feelers from the AAP, the Congress in Delhi has thus far rejected any offer of a tie-up for the seven Lok Sabha seats in the national capital. All seven seats are held by the BJP currently.

“The Congress should have been here today,” CPI leader D Raja told CNN-News18 as the political drama unfolded in the capital on Saturday evening.

Sunday’s NITI Aayog conference will also be the first meeting between Modi and Chandrababu Naidu after the latter’s TDP pulled out of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over the demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh. Naidu is expected to reiterate the demand at Sunday’s meeting.