Special Correspondent

"West Bengal Government has failed on various counts"

UPA Government taking Left's support at the Centre "in the nation's interest" Left Front has not improved the lot of the dalits, women, economically weaker sections Central grants remain unutilised in the West Bengal

KOLKATA: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government at the Centre was taking the support of the Left parties not to stay in power but in the "interests of the nation," Congress president Sonia Gandhi said on Thursday.

On a whirlwind election tour, she addressed three rallies one in the city and two in adjoining districts in four hours.

But the Left's support to the Centre did not hold her back from coming down strongly on the performance of Left Front Government in West Bengal.

The Left Front Government had failed on various counts, she said, including "improving the lot of the dalits, women and economically weaker sections of society. "How much longer do they have to wait?" Ms. Gandhi asked. "This is matter of great concern and regret. I feel sad."

"It is true that the Congress-led UPA Government is taking help from the Left parties but this was not being done to hold on to the chair but in the interest of the nation and on the basis of the Common Minimum Programme," Ms. Gandhi said at a rally in Baduria in North 24 Parganas.

Demands met

Later addressing a congregation here, she said, "The UPA Government, under the leadership of Dr. Manmohan Singh, has extended all help to West Bengal, as it has to other States, for development. All the demands of the West Bengal Government had been met, specially in education, power, village and urban development." Yet there had been a "decline in education in the State and thousands of villages were still without power."

Central grants had remained unutilised in the State, which was lagging behind in development. Unemployment was growing with "lakhs of workers thrown out of jobs and nearly 35,000 factories closed down."

On West Bengal's fiscal position she said, "It is a matter of great regret that the State has a debt burden of Rs. 90,000 crore."

The CMP had been drawn up to safeguard the interests of all sections of society, Ms. Gandhi said. Emphasis was being laid on improving the conditions of the poor, the dalits and women. "It is because of this that the UPA Government had introduced programmes like the National Rural Employment Generation Programme. Many districts in West Bengal will be benefiting from it as will the rest of the country," she said at the meeting in Baduria.

In the coming elections people should consider what benefits had reached them during the tenure of the Left Front Government before casting their votes, she said. "They must ask why workers were committing suicide, why lakhs of people were thrown out of jobs and why the atrocities on women were increasing."

Ms. Gandhi also addressed a rally at Garden Reach in South 24 Parganas district.