Prime minister Narendra Modi has done well to call a meeting of the governing council of NITI Aayog ahead of the crucial monsoon session of Parliament beginning July 21. Having chief ministers and key Cabinet ministers as its members, the council is seen as a platform to discuss and find solutions to the issues involving both the Centre and the states. Which means Modi will get a chance to convince the CMs of the merits of the government line on bills like the GST and the Land Acquisition ones that are stuck in Parliament. Though Congress CMs will toe the party line, the meeting will provide a more formal setting to convince other chief ministers such as J Jayalalithaa, Naveen Patnaik and Akhilesh Yadav who have sizeable parliamentary strength of their own. Also, in the run-up to getting the land Bill passed, various chief ministers had expressed their reservations to what the UPA had passed—were Modi to get the chief ministers to reiterate this, it would go a long way in helping his government get the Bill passed.
Similarly, in the case of subsidies, apart from LPG where the lists of beneficiaries are with centrally-owned PSUs, the government has no hope of being able to go ahead with its Direct Benefits Transfer scheme unless the states cooperate. Now that the SECC list is out, Modi can use the Niti Aayog Governing Council meetings to impress upon the states that it is in their interests to push the scheme for food or kerosene subsidies, for instance—those states doing DBT can be given additional incentives. Similarly, if agriculture growth has to be moved to eastern India, this requires reworking farm subsidies, working on irrigation and insurance schemes, even FCI-led marketing support in certain states—none of this can be done without having the states on board. Ideally, the governing council should meet once a month to be able to thrash out such issues and to get work on them going.