Odisha minister denied entry to Niti Ayog meet

Bhubaneswar: As Odisha Finance Minister Pradeep Amat was on Wednesday denied entry to a NITI Aayog meeting in New Delhi, it triggered political brouhaha in the State.

The meeting was held in New Delhi under the chairmanship of prime minister Narendra Modi, and was attended by chief ministers of all BJP-ruled states along with some non-BJP chief ministers of Delhi, Bihar and Tripura. The Congress-ruled nine states skipped the meet.

While Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik was invited to the meeting as a governing body member, the State government deputed Amat as the chief minister’s representative.

Amat was, however, denied entry as his presence at the chief ministers’ meeting was inadmissible as per the protocol maintained by the central government, said government sources.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa’s representatives also were not allowed by the same yardstick to attend Wednesday’s Niti Aayog meeting.

The denial of entry pass, however, has triggered a political debate in Odisha.

Cooperation Minister and senior Biju Janata Dal leader Damodar Rout said the denial of entry to the state’s representative is uncalled for and termed it “unfortunate”.

“Denial of pass to Amat is unfortunate. Amat had gone to attend the meeting in line with the federal arrangement that we have. Provision of pass to Amat was the responsibility of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO),” Rout told media here.

BJP national secretary Suresh Pujari blamed the chief minister for the embarrassment caused to the finance minister.
“The chief minister should have attended the meeting as a governing member of the NITI Aayog. But he sent Amat. He has a habit of excusing himself from attending such meetings. It’s not only an embarrassment for Amat, it’s an embarrassment for Odisha, which has been caused by the chief minister,” said Pujari.

Former state finance minister Panchanan Kanungo said while the Odisha government knows that the meeting was exclusively for the chief ministers, how come the finance minister was deputed as the chief minister’s representative?
Apart from nine chief ministers from Congress-ruled states, West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik, Tamilnadu’s J.Jayalalithaa were among the non-NDA chief ministers who skipped the meet.

All the chief ministers of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states attended the meeting including Rajasthan’s Vasundhara Raje, Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Chhattisgarh’s Raman Singh.

Meanwhile, other prominent opposition chief ministers who attended the meeting were Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal and Tripura’s Manik Sarkar.