With a host of chief ministers attacking the Centre's creation of an anti-terror body, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday stepped into the picture assuring them that states' powers will not be affected and asking Home Minister P Chidambaram to hold talks with them.
The prime minister's intervention came on a day opposition parties grilled Union Home Secretary R K Singh at a meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs demanding that the move be put in abeyance and another Congress ally National Conference appeared to have reservations over the decision.
"In forming the NCTC (National Centre for Counter Terrorism), it is not the government's intent in any way to affect the basic features of the constitutional provisions and allocation of powers between the states and the Union.
"The primary purpose of the NCTC is to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts throughout the country, as the Intelligence Bureau has been doing so far. It is for this reason that the NCTC has been located within the IB and not as a separate organisation," he said in identical letters to seven chief ministers who had written to him.
Singh wrote to chief ministers of Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Gujarat, West Bengal, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, who all had expressed apprehensions that the Centre's decision to set up NCTC would strike at the federal nature of the Constitution and erode the states' powers.
He said he has, however, noted their concerns about the manner in which the NCTC will function and was asking the home minister to address them suitably in consultation with the chief ministers.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who first raked up the issue, and others have complained that Chidambaram had not consulted them before the government issued the notification to set up NCTC.
The prime minister recalled that the idea of NCTC has been under consideration by government since the Group of Ministers report of 2001 suggested a Joint Task Force on intelligence and the report was accepted by the government of the day.
It was also suggested by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission that a National Centre for Counter Terrorism be established.
At the Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting on Tuesday, opposition parties criticised the Centre's decision to set up the anti-terror body without any consultation with the states and asked the chairman to recommend that the NCTC, a brain child of Home Minister P Chidambaram, be put on hold.
The issue is also likely to come up when Mamata Banerjee will meet the prime minister in New Delhi on Wednesday.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also appeared to be having reservations though he did not spell them out.
"There has been no discussion between state government and the central government on the issue of NCTC. I do not think it would be appropriate as chief minister for me to publicly comment about it, before I privately share the feelings of the state government with the Union government on this crucial issue," Omar told reporters near Srinagar.
The government is likely to convene a meeting of chief secretaries and directors general of police of all states to explain about NCTC before March 1, when the body is expected to come into existence.
At the meeting of the Parliamentary committee, members of non-Congress parties grilled the Union home secretary on setting up of the NCTC.
They posed questions to the home secretary asking him how the Centre can decide unilaterally on setting up the counter-terrorism body without consulting states.
Members of Bharatiya Janata Party, Biju Janata Dal, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Left parties were of the opinion that the NCTC "impinges" on the powers of states and would affect the federal structure.
Chief ministers of a dozen states have already voiced their opposition to the creation of the NCTC arguing that the rights of the states would be compromised if it comes into force.
At Tuesday's meeting, the members told Singh that the chief ministers of states should have been consulted before the decision to set up the body was taken.
The sources said a few members said the setting up of the body would be an attack on principles of federalism and it would have an adverse impact on Centre-State relations.
They said Congress members, who were present in the meeting, pitched for wider consultations on the issue.