West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee expressed surprise on Sunday over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's comments at an election rally on Saturday, particularly his remarks that Gujarat ranks higher than West Bengal in ensuring jobs for Muslims.
“I am surprised by his [Dr. Singh's] comments yesterday,” Mr. Bhattacharjee said adding that he had met the Prime Minister on several occasions in New Delhi and “non-performance” of the Left Front government had never come up.
Mr. Bhattacharjee said Dr. Singh's comparisons between the condition of Muslims in West Bengal and Gujarat were “not expected of him” because “Muslims in West Bengal were living in peace and harmony whereas in Gujarat, they live in fear.”
Better literacy rate
On Dr. Singh's claims about the educational and cultural backwardness of the State, Mr. Bhattacharjee reiterated that the literacy rate in the State was more than 77 per cent, against the national average of about 74 per cent.
However, when asked if the Prime Minister had succumbed to the pressure of coalition politics, Mr. Bhattacharjee said he would not like to criticise him over it as it was “usual” that Dr. Singh should address a public rally here and “speak against the government” at a time when the elections were on.
When it was pointed out that in his speech, the Prime Minister made no mention of Maoists, Mr. Bhattacharjee said: “He has not spoken a word on price rise, on the numerous corruption cases in the Centre or the Maoist problem in the State. He has not spoken on many issues. But, how is it possible to comment on something that he has not said?”
Mr. Bhattacharjee said there were other matters on which the Prime Minister “was unhappy,” but had found no mention in his speech, including the fact that no progress was made on the dedicated freight corridor project here or the developments that took place at Singur.
Yet, when asked if he had a message for the Prime Minister, Mr. Bhattacharjee said: “He is our Prime Minister. He is doing his job, I'm doing mine.”
On being reminded that it was Dr. Singh who once described Mr. Bhattacharjee as the nation's best Chief Minister, Mr. Bhattacharjee shrugged it off saying, “what the prime Minister may have said at some point in time or when he changed his mind, I am not aware.”
“Eventually, it is the people's opinion about me that matters,” he said.