The fourth meeting of the governing council of the policy think tank NITI Aayog began at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday morning.

In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the economic growth in January-March was 7.7%, and the challenge now was to take this growth to double digits. The prime minister said that the Centre has given states over Rs 11 lakh crore, a significant increase of about Rs 6 lakh crore the previous government used to allot them.

He praised the council for approaching complex matters of governance as “Team India” and said it could help bring “historic change”. He also hailed the council’s “spirit of cooperative, competitive federalism”.

Modi said several chief ministers had contributed immensely to policy formation through sub-groups and committees formed on matters including the Swachh Bharat Mission, Digital Transactions, and Skill Development.

He said the focus would now be on the effective implementation of the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, Saubhagya, UJALA program, Jan Dhan Yojana, Jeevan Jyoti Yojana, Suraksha Bima Yojana, and Mission Indradhanush.

Modi also assured assistance to the chief ministers of flood-affected states.

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu raised concerns related to the bifurcation of his state and reiterated his demand for the special category status, ANI reported. He said the country’s economic growth needs to be 8% and major states like Andhra Pradesh should grow at 10%-12%.

The NITI Aayog’s governing council meets annually to review the work done during the previous year and discusses future developmental priorities. The meeting is attended by chief ministers, lieutenant governors and Union ministers.

The Delhi matter

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the standoff between their Delhi counterpart and Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal.

“We have raised the issue with the prime minister as well as the home minister,” Banerjee said after the meeting, PTI reported. “We told them that the deadlock should be resolved for the sake of the people. The prime minister did not say anything, but Rajnath Singh said that he would look into the matter. We said what we had to, now they have to sort it out. It is their matter now.”

Kejriwal and three of his ministers have been protesting sitting in the waiting room of Delhi Lieutenant Governor Baijal’s office since Monday to demand that striking bureaucrats in the city be asked to resume work. IAS officers, however, held a press conference on Sunday to refute the Delhi government’s allegations that they were on a strike.

The meeting was earlier scheduled on June 16, but it was pushed to Sunday because of Eid. Some chief ministers, including Naidu and Banerjee, had earlier expressed reluctance to attend the meeting. The four chief ministers had held a press conference on Saturday to claim that they were not allowed permission to meet Kejriwal at Raj Niwas.

NITI Aayog Chief Executive Officer Amitabh Kant clarified that Delhi Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal was not present at the meeting after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he had not “authorised” Baijal to go to the meeting instead of him. Kejriwal was responding to a Twitter user’s claim that Baijal had reached the venue for the meeting. The original tweet has now been deleted.

Simultaneous elections

Modi also called for a widespread debate on holding simultaneous eletions at the NITI Aayog meeting. “The prime minister called for widespread debate and consultations on simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas, keeping in view various aspects such as the resulting financial savings and consequent better utilisation of resources,” according to an official release.