Jayalalithaa, Modi and Patnaik meet

New Delhi, April 16: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa Monday met her Odisha and Gujarat counterparts, Naveen Patnaik and Narendra Modi, leading to speculation about their joining hands on the issue of federalism and firming up opposition to the central government’s policies, particularly the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC).

The meetings in Tamil Nadu House in the national capital came on a day the central government had convened a meeting of chief ministers in the capital to discuss internal security. In their speeches at the conference, the three chief ministers lambasted the central government on the issue of federalism.

Patnaik was the first to arrive at Tamil Nadu House to meet Jayalalithaa, the chief of AIADMK. Modi arrived after about half an hour even as a meeting between Patnaik and Jayalalithaa was on. The three leaders were together for a few minutes before Patnaik left the venue.

Patnaik, who is chief of Biju Janata Dal, told waiting mediapersons that his visit was a “courtesy call.”

“The chief minister (Jayalalithaa) is an old family friend. She knew my late father. I am on a courtesy call,” Patnaik said.

Modi, who had attended Jayalalithaa’s swearing in as chief minister in Chennai last year, did not speak to the media.

Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal was also scheduled to meet Jayalalithaa but could not come.

The meeting of the three chief ministers comes ahead of the May 5 meeting on the proposed NCTC, an anti-terror intelligence hub, which is opposed by several non-Congress ruled states. Even United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ally Mamata Banerjee is opposed to NCTC proposal in its present form.

There is also speculation about non-Congress chief ministers having started informal consultations on the presidential polls to be held before July. With neither UPA nor the opposition National Democratic Alliance commanding a majority in the electoral college, parites outside the two formations are expected to play a crucial role in the election.

BJP has made a common cause with other non-Congress chief ministers on the issue of federalism and some party leaders hope that the issue will pay it dividends in the presidential polls.

Jayalalithaa was scathing in her criticism of the central government in her speech at the internal security meeting and slammed it for attempts to reduce states to the level of glorified municipalities.

Modi accused central government of “unilateralism.”

Patnaik wanted the central government to immediately address the concerns around formation of NCTC.

Hoever, remarks of Modi and Jayalalithaa were contested by Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot at the internal security meeting. Gehlot accused the two leaders of making “undignified comments” in their speeches.

A Rajasthan government official told IANS that Gehlot said the two chief ministers had used the meeting on internal security to score political points against the central government.

IANS