Her speech cut short, Jaya walks out of NDC meet; Modi attacks Centre over economy

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his Tamil Nadu counterpart J Jayalalithaa lashed out at the UPA government Thursday, with Modi coming down hard on the Centre for its "paralysis in decision making". Jayalalithaa stormed out of the National Development Council (NDC) meeting accusing the Centre of "stifling" voices of chief ministers who do not support it.

While chief ministers of opposition-ruled states were expected to attack the Congress-led UPA government, Modi took on the Centre not just on grievances specific to states but on national macro-economic issues too.

"It seems that there is no urgency or seriousness in tackling economic crises facing the country. There has been a virtual lack of direction in the macroeconomic management of the country," he said. Modi argued that the "continuing paralysis in decision-making does not bode well for a promising future scenario" and added that an "unmistakable sense of pessimism" was evident in UPA's formulation of the 12th five-year plan.

In his context, he said lowering the growth rate target will add to the "mood of despondency and pessimism in the country" and "cast increasing doubts on the India growth story."

"Little concern has been shown for the constant agony that millions of Indians are forced to undergo on a daily basis because of rising prices. The Central government has failed to exercise due diligence and financial discipline in controlling its fiscal deficit and ensuring rationalisation and effective targeting of subsidies," Modi said.

Jayalalithaa took her political opposition to the UPA to a new level, accusing it of restricting speeches of chief ministers who do not support it to 10 minutes.

The CMs were told a day in advance that they were expected to complete their speeches in 10 minutes due to time constraints. But Jayalalithaa turned red when the bell rang 10 minutes into her speech indicating she should conclude. A furious AIADMK chief walked out after asking that her speech - in which she referred to the UPA as a "minority ruling coterie" - be taken as read.

She said her walkout was in "strong protest" over the "shabby treatment meted to a constitutional authority" and asserted the meeting had turned out to be an "exercise in humiliation".

Before returning to Chennai after cutting short her stay in the capital, she met reporters and said the 10-minute cap was "unheard of" and claimed chief ministers supporting the UPA have in the past been allowed to speak for 30 minutes or more at such conferences. She said it was "utter humiliation" of a chief minister who had come all the way to Delhi to present the views of the state government in the interest of the welfare of the people.

The government countered her with minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla saying there was no discrimination as the same ruled applied to all chief ministers.

"The Prime Minister showed a gesture by giving an opportunity to her to speak first, immediately after his speech, though her turn was to come much later. The time allotted to each chief minister is precisely 10 minutes," he said, adding leaders should not make political capital out of such events.

While he felt it was not appropriate for a leader of Jayalalithaa's stature to have walked out, his colleague Manish Tewari said, "merely because a time-limit has been set and the time-limit has been enforced and applies across the board does not mean that any person take personal embarrassment to it or try and extrapolate certain motives to it".

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