As Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairs the fifth governing council meeting of the Niti Aayog on Saturday, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao have decided to skip the event.

Mamata had earlier indicated that she would not attend the meet saying it was “fruitless” for her to attend the deliberations as the body has no financial powers and the power to support state plans.

“Given the fact that the Niti Aayog has no financial powers and the power to support state plans, it is fruitless for me to attend the meeting of a body that is bereft of any financial powers,” she had said, intensifying her battle with the Centre.

Banerjee had on earlier occasions also stayed away from Niti Aayog deliberations to drive home her annoyance at the dissolution of Planning Commission.

K Chandrashekar Rao, on the other hand, is said to be busy preparing for the inauguration of an irrigation project.

The interesting fact is that both the leaders had also skipped PM Modi’s swearing-in ceremony.

Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh is also likely to give the meeting a miss.

Structural reforms in agriculture, drought situation and relief measures, challenges in transforming aspirational districts and security-related issues will be high on the agenda of the Niti Aayog meeting.

The five-point agenda for the meeting also includes aspirational districts programme, transforming agriculture and security related issues with special focus on left-wing extremism (LWE) districts, an official statement said.

The meeting will be held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Chief Ministers of all the states and Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah, Nirmala Sitharaman, Narendra Singh Tomar, Nitin Gadkari, Thaawar Chand Gehlot and Piyush Goyal will attend the meet.

This will be the first governing council meeting under the new Modi government.

The council, the apex body of Niti Aayog, includes all chief ministers, lieutenant governors of union territories, several union ministers and senior government officials.

Last week, the PM had approved the reconstitution of NITI Aayog with Home Minister Amit Shah as an ex-officio member. The reconstituted body will continue to see Indian economist Rajiv Kumar as its vice chairman, and VK Saraswat, Ramesh Chand and VK Paul as its members.

Economist Bibek Debroy has been dropped from the panel.

Headed by the Prime Minister, the governing council meets regularly, and its first meeting took place on February 8, 2015.

The second meeting of council on July 15, 2015, reviewed the progress made by the three sub-groups of chief ministers and the two task forces.

In the third meeting of the council on April 23, 2017, Modi had pitched for conducting simultaneous elections of the Lok Sabha and the state assemblies and shifting to a January-December fiscal year.

The fourth meeting of the council on June 17, 2018, deliberated upon measures taken to double farmers’ income and the progress of government’s flagship schemes.

The NITI Aayog has been mandated with fostering cooperative federalism through structured support initiatives and mechanisms with the states on a continuous basis, recognising that strong states make a strong nation on the principles of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwaas”.

It seeks to design and assist the implementation of strategic, long-term policy frameworks and programme initiatives besides monitoring their progress and efficacy.