New Delhi, March 31 (IANS) Amid strident opposition from some of the non-Congress ruled states, Home Minister P. Chidambaram Saturday indicated that the annual meeting of chief ministers on April 16 may be extended to discuss setting up of a National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and welcomed debate on the issue.
"I am glad that there will be a debate and I sincerely hope that it will be a debate based on the Constitution, laws in force and the very healthy convention that has been built over the last 65 years," Chidambaram told reporters after presenting his ministry's monthly report.
"Please remember that the chief ministers' conference on internal security is an annual affair. It was initially convened for Feb 15, 2012. The NCTC question came up in March. The Feb 15 meeting was postponed because of the election and parliament session to April 16," he said to questions about the letter written by UPA constituent Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking for devoting time for NCTC issue at the conference.
"But I think it is important that all issues of the agenda are discussed. How we will accommodate the request of the chief ministers to devote a considerable amount of time to discuss the NCTC subject, it is a matter that will be resolved, I think, in the next couple of days."
Asked whether there was a possibility of extending the day-long meeting to two days, he said that was possible.
"That will depend on the convenience of the prime minister and chief ministers. But that is an option."
It's not only Banerjee, but Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi also has also written a letter to the prime minister requesting for making NCTC the exclusive agenda of the April 16 meeting.
Asked about the fate of notification issued by the ministry under which the NCTC was to become operational on March 1, Chidambaram said: "The notification is there and it is in the agenda. There is no contradiction."
"It says that the order will come into force, a director will be appointed, three joint directors will be appointed and a standing council will be constituted."
"It is when a director is appointed, the three joint directors are appointed and a standing council is constituted, there is an NCTC. Otherwise it is still an idea which has to be operationalised," he added.
Banerjee Saturday upped the ante, saying that the meeting of chief ministers next month should discuss only the "sensitive" NCTC issue. "Yes, I have written to the PM," she told reporters in Kolkata, adding that the focus on the NCTC would be lost as 10 items were listed on the agenda.
"NCTC is a very sensitive issue. It should be the only matter of discussion at the meeting so that all states can express their views properly and adequate interaction can take place. Other issues can be discussed subsequently," she said in her letter.
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