The chief ministers of four opposition-ruled southern states skipped the high-level meeting in New Delhi on the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Mahatma Gandhi.
Tamil Nadu was the only representative from the south at the chief ministers' meeting chaired by President Ram Nath Kovind.
The chief ministers of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Kerala - all opposition-ruled states - did not attend the meeting, citing official commitments for their absence.
"We received an intimation (about the meeting) at AP Bhavan only late in the evening yesterday. Also, we have already scheduled our cabinet meeting. We will send a letter to the Centre expressing our inability to attend (the conference), but we assure it of all our cooperation for the event," Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu's media cell said in a statement.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister EK Palaniswami took part in the first meeting of a national committee set up to plan events for the anniversary. The committee, comprising 115 members, has the country's chief ministers as ex-officio members.
Sources close to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan also said a cabinet meeting scheduled in the state was the reason why he could not attend the meeting, while leaders close to Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said he was busy with the Assembly election in the state, to be held next week.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao would not attend the conference because he was meeting Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav as part of the TRS chief's plans to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP political alternative, sources close to Rao said.
The ruling Telugu Desam Party in Andhra Pradesh quit the NDA after the Centre did not grant the state a special category status as demanded by the TDP.
Asked if Naidu was skipping the meeting because of differences with the Centre, a source close to the party and the government said, "Since the event is about Mahatma Gandhi, we do not have any such reservations."
The committee is mandated to approve policies, plans, programmes and also supervise and guide the commemoration of Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary in 2019.