There is no gainsaying who loses out more from the thinner attendance at a meeting that was supposed to throw up a hundred ideas
It is a sign of the politically polarised times that the Niti Aayog meeting should have become the medium of a virtual boycott of the Centre by many non-BJP ruled States. The political temperature has also risen much, thanks to the arguments over the inauguration of the new Parliament and the ordinance on services to control the appointment of bureaucrats to the Delhi government.
It is also a sign of where the debate over cooperative federalism is going vis-a-vis the power of the Big Brother in the Centre as opposed to the constituent states that the meeting of what is essentially a think tank and germinator of ideas of governance should become the victim of political battles being fought.
There is no gainsaying who loses out more from the thinner attendance at a meeting that was supposed to throw up a hundred ideas, including on how to make India a developed nation by 2047. The difficulty of envisioning what may be needed for such long-term planning may have been responsible for the short-sightedness that seemed to have led to 11 CMs of Opposition-led states not being at the meeting on Saturday in the capital, though some of them may have been genuinely preoccupied with other things.
When those in the current dispensation dumped the Planning Commission dramatically saying it had become redundant as it was relevant only in an outdated command economy structure and replaced it with Niti Aayog while significantly taking away the power of allocation of funds to vest it with the finance ministry, they should have anticipated a lukewarm response from the political leadership to Niti Aayog. Had there been power to disperse funding, things would have been different.
Even so, lending an ear to a national body vested with the responsibility of creating a roadmap for development cannot be such a painful experience as to avoid it altogether. After all, some of the subjects in focus at the meeting like MSMEs, healthcare and skilling people to global standards are crucial for the development of member states.
It is a pity then that the call for fiscal prudence from the Prime Minister, logical as it also spells out fears of what future generations may have to bear because of today’s profligacy, might go disregarded considering how much more is being committed to freebies these days on top of legitimate welfare spending.