Expressing concern over the law and order situation in West Bengal given the series of political killings in different parts of the State and with the Left Front government seemingly “clueless” on how to govern, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appealed to people here on Saturday to vote to power the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance in order to “infuse new life to the State and restore peace and development.”
Sharing the dais with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee — the first time in the on-going election campaign when the top leaders of the two parties have been seen together — Dr. Singh sent out a clear message in favour of the alliance and for change.
“The time for change has arrived. The chariot of administration has been stalled in the State…The Left Front government has lost contact with the common people, especially the youth. The State government has no concrete policy on investment, agriculture and education,” he said.
The Prime Minister endorsed Ms. Banerjee's contention that there was a virtual breakdown in the law and order situation in the State and the Left Front government was to blame. He said the Centre had to deploy Central forces in the Jhargram region of Paschim Medinipur district (an area affected by Maoist activities).
Pointing out that restoring “fraternity and peace” would be the primary focus if the alliance was voted to power, the Prime Minister promised all possible help to the State government to “modify” the local administrative system and the police force.
Wondering about the reason that kept the State government from spending Central funds to implement social welfare schemes even as it incurred a huge debt and revenue deficit, Dr. Singh said the same Left Front government used to complain about the Centre's alleged discrimination in disbursing funds.
Alleging that the health sector was in doldrums with lack of doctors, dysfunctional primary health centres and increasing number of malnourished and anaemic women and children, the Prime Minister claimed that the State government failed to spend 70 per cent of funds received under the National Rural Health Mission in the past two years.
He also pointed to the ‘poor performance' in implementing the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
Recalling the State's glorious industrial past, Dr. Singh said that manufacturing, tea and tourism industries were in bad shape at present with investors losing faith on the State government.
“West Bengal is way behind many States in industrialisation today. Factories have remained shut from Kalyani to Budge Budge…If there is no investment, how will the youth find employment? It is unfortunate that the youth have to move out of the State in spite of having great potential,” he said.
Observing that the education system could be salvaged if politics was kept away from educational institutions, Dr. Singh said there was pressing need for both private and public investment in education, to provide adequate manpower for the information technology sector.
Keywords: West Bengal elections