New Delhi: In a major embarrassment to the Congress-led UPA government, a majority of Chief Ministers, including from the Congress, on Monday chose not to attend a conference on police reforms and public order called by Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde.
Only seven Chief Ministers, including four from the Congress, took part.
While it was expected that Chief Ministers of non-Congress-ruled States would skip the meet, what has bemused the Centre is that only four Congress Chief Ministers out of 11 turned up.
The Congress Chief Ministers who stayed away from the meet were Delhi’s Sheila Dikshit, Haryana’s B.S. Hooda, Rajasthan’s Ashok Gehlot, Himachal Pradesh’s Virbhadra Singh, Maharashtra’s Prithviraj Chavan, Andhra Pradesh’s N. Kiran Kumar Reddy, Kerala’s Oommen Chandy and Manipur’s Okram Ibobi Singh.
Last week, The Hindu was the first to report that most of the Chief Ministers, particularly those from the States ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party and other non-Congress parties, had not confirmed to the Ministry of Home Affairs to confirm their presence at the conference. The meet assumed significance as it came a few months after the nationwide sporadic protests and dharnas — particularly in Delhi — that followed the brutal gang rape and death of a paramedic student in the Capital last December.
Among those present at the meet were four Congress Chief Ministers — Vijay Bahuguna (Uttarakhand), Nabam Tuki (Arunachal Pradesh), Mukul Sangma (Meghalaya), Tarun Gogoi (Assam) — and three non-Congress Chief Ministers — Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik (Biju Janata Dal), Tripura’s Manik Sarkar (Communist Party of India – Marxist), and Nagaland’s Neiphiu Rio (Nagaland People’s Front).
Non-Congress, non-BJP CMs who skipped the meet were Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal), Jayalalithaa (Tamil Nadu) and Akhilesh Yadav (Uttar Pradesh), while the BJP’s Narendra Modi (Gujarat), Shivraj Singh Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh) and Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh) also stayed away. Chief Ministers of States where the BJP is a partner in coalition governments, such as Nitish Kumar (Bihar) and Parkash Singh Badal (Punjab), also stayed away.
Notably, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, whose National Conference is a partner of the UPA, missed the meet despite having earlier confirmed his presence.
In yet another departure from convention, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not inaugurate the meet.
According to sources, the Home Ministry did not bother him this time as it probably had anticipated poor attendance.