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Feel-good flows like water

Feb. 17: Conciliatory gestures replaced the ongoing war of words between allies Trinamul and the Congress today as Mamata Banerjee and Pranab Mukherjee shared the dais in East Midnapore and heaped praise on each other, steering clear of thorny issues.

Senior leaders of both parties were present at the programme at Bhagabanpur, attended by over a lakh people from Trinamul strongholds in East Midnapore and Congress bastion Sabang in West Midnapore. The Rs 650-crore Keleghai-Kapaleswari-Chandia-Baghai-Deuli flood-control project was launched at the event on the banks of Keleghai river that separates Bhagabanpur and Sabang.

Union finance minister Mukherjee got the pleasantries flowing by calling the chief minister a “jananetri (people’s leader)”. “People have come here only to see her. She has the power of attracting people. Wherever she goes, people flock to see her,” he said.

Mamata began her speech by addressing Mukherjee as “our respected and beloved leader”.

Speaking about the project, which involves desiltation, building bridges and storing excess rainwater, the chief minister said: “For years, we had been hoping something would be done to remove the problems that the people of the flood-prone areas here face. Nothing had been done till now.”

Although Mamata referred to the state’s empty coffers, she did not speak on her government’s allegation that the Centre was delaying financial assistance to Bengal. “They (Left Front) have left behind a huge debt burden. All that we earn goes in repaying the debt and the interest. Taka nei, paisa nei. Dhal nei, talowar nei Nidhiram Sardar (we neither have money nor power). We are facing hardships in running the government,” she said.

Mukherjee had granted national project status to the flood-control scheme in the last budget. The state has given its nod to the acquisition of 1,675 acres for the project.

Mamata told the crowd that the acquisition was required for the benefit of the people. “Nobody will acquire the land forcibly. Those who live near the rivers will benefit. Those who give up their land will be rehabilitated.”

Union water resources minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the project could be implemented because of Mamata.