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Buddha & team launch Delhi blitz

Calcutta, Sept. 13: Bengal has unleashed a blitzkrieg on Delhi ' and the carpet-bombing began with Haldia today.

The state government today sought a week's time for a fresh look at whether Indian Oil Corporation or Gail (India) Ltd would be the right partner to revive the fortunes Haldia Petrochemicals, signalling that a solution could be in sight to the equity stand-off.

The option of re-inducting IOC as an equity partner came up at a meeting in Delhi which was attended by the Union petroleum secretary, Bengal's chief secretary and the CMDs of IOC, Gail and the Industrial Development Bank of India.

The real blitz will, however, come on Saturday when chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee meets Manmohan Singh with requests for funds and clearance of pending projects.

'Buddhadeb-babu will meet the Prime Minister to highlight certain requirements of Bengal and also request him to expedite the clearance of pending projects,' said Arun Bhattacharya, the chief minister's principal secretary.

He will accompany Bhattacharjee when the chief minister leaves for Delhi on Thursday to attend the CPM politburo meeting, scheduled for the next day.

Several key ministers, bureaucrats, parliamentarians and legislators from different parties have already reached Delhi ' rekindling memories of an aggressive Andhra Pradesh under . Chandrababu Naidu ' to keep themselves primed for the meeting with Singh and the several others with central ministers later.

CPM veteran Jyoti Basu, state party secretary Anil Biswas and Left Front chairman Biman Bose will also power the blitz, the first of its kind by Bengal. Basu is also likely to meet Singh and Sonia Gandhi, the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance.

'I am not happy with the performance of the UPA government at the Centre. The government has to take note of the rising aspirations of the vast eastern region, its relative economic backwardness and clear the pending projects which will benefit the region if commissioned on time,' Basu said.

'Buddhadeb will place before (the) PM Bengal's development needs which (the) UPA must address quickly,' Biswas said.

Bhattacharjee's agenda for the meeting with Singh includes:

More central funds for midday meals for primary schools

Reopening of four closed central public sector undertakings

Measures to arrest erosion of the banks of the Ganga and the Padma in Malda and Murshidabad districts

Development of the coastal areas from the Sunderbans to East Midnapore

Clearance of all pending railway projects, including extension of Metro railway and installation of double lines

Assistance of Rs 1,000 crore to improve infrastructure in Calcutta

'We have already placed our projects before Union ministers, including Kapil Sibal (science & technology and ocean development), Shankersinh Vaghela (textiles) and Hans Raj Bhardwaj (law and justice) and (Planning Commission deputy chairman) Montek Singh Ahluwalia. We hope that the Centre will look into the demands,' Rabin Deb, one of the members of the all-party delegation that reached Delhi today, said.

What none would acknowledge in public, however, is that Bhattacharjee is expected to bring into focus his government's difficulties in achieving a convergence of minds with certain Union ministries like home over stronger measures to curb infiltration from Nepal and Bangladesh.

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