An angry Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Thursday created a flutter by walking out of the National Development Council (NDC) meeting in New Delhi after accusing the central government of "stifling" the voice of chief ministers belonging to opposition parties".
The government dismissed her accusations but two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief ministers supported her contention that the representatives from states should get more time to speak.
The 57th National Development Council (NDC) meet at Vigyan Bhawan here had a stipulated 10 minutes for each chief minister to speak but this did not go down well with the Tamil Nadu chief minister.
Jayalalithaa, who was among the first speakers, said it was humiliating to have been signalled to stop ten minutes into her speech.
"I began my speech and as the 10 minutes were up, they rang a bell. It was a big humiliation," she told reporters, adding there had been many occasions where the chief ministers spoke for over half an hour.
"Just allot 10 minutes and humiliate in this way. They need not have called us all the way to Delhi. I register my strong protest against the centre's move to stifle the voices of chief ministers who are in the opposition," she said.
The chief minister said the plan document itself was lengthy and encompassed many subjects.
Minister of State for Planning Rajeev Shukla dismissed Jayalalithaa's accusations and said that all chief ministers, including those belonging to the Congress, had been given 10 minutes to speak.
"It is wrong to politicise the matter. The time limit applied to all chief ministers. Where is discrimination," he said.
Shukla said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had accommodated Jayalalithaa by agreeing to her request to speak early.
He said that the meeting was to last for about seven hours and there were around 35 speakers from states and union territories apart from union ministers and the prime minister.
Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said Jayalalithaa should not have a cause of grievance as 10 minutes were allotted to all chief ministers to rationalise time.
"I don't think it is legitimate cause of affront for anyone," he said.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, however, supported Jayalalithaa and said ten minutes was not enough to articulate all points.
"We come to the meeting after preparations. Ten minutes is too less... There is need to be liberal in the matter," Chauhan told reporters.
He said the meeting can be held over two days to give every chief minister enough time to make oral submissions.
"There should be chance to make the submission in full," Chauhan said.
Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi indirectly supported Jayalalithaa's stance and said the central government did not want to hear at length from chief ministers of states ruled by opposition.
"The less they get to hear, the better," he said.
Jayalalithaa was scathing in her attack on the central government in her written speech and said it was indifferent to reducing poverty and was busy conspiring against the common man to facilitate foreign investors.
She said the central government is caught in the daily squabbles of its constituents, merely trying to survive from day to day, and has neither the time nor the inclination to pay attention to the problems of the people of this country.
Wondering what the purpose of the NDC meeting was, Jayalalithaa pointed out that the country was already nearly three-quarters of the way into the first year of the Twelfth Plan.