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Cong raises AIIMS pitch

- High command for ‘all out’ protest against govt

Oct. 8: The Congress central leadership today told the Bengal unit to “go all out” against the Mamata Banerjee government for its reluctance to arrange land for an AIIMS-like hospital in Raiganj because of “mere politics”.

The urge comes on a day panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee repeated in Malda the chief minister’s stand on the row: the hospital should come up in Kalyani.

Shakeel Ahmed, the AICC Bengal in charge, made it clear that the state Congress would up its campaign against the government to get the super-speciality hospital built in Raiganj, the Lok Sabha constituency of Deepa Das Munshi, who is seen as the key crusader of the demand.

“Azadji (Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad) yesterday clarified the government’s stand of setting up the AIIMS-like hospital at Raiganj, perhaps keeping in mind that the Centre had okayed the project in 2009. I have told Congress leaders in Bengal to go all out against the Mamata Banerjee government for trying to scuttle the project in Raiganj by resorting to mere politics,” Ahmed said over phone from Delhi.

Azad had in Murshidabad yesterday said: “If we set up a super-speciality hospital in West Bengal, we will set it up in Raiganj first.”

Ahmed said he would chair a meeting of the state Congress’s extended executive committee on October 12 to work out a “sustained movement” against the government. “The time has come to launch a sustained movement against the government to make the masses aware of its anti-people policies,” he said.

Another Congress leader said that the high command’s “hard stand” on the Bengal government came after Deepa urged the central leadership to rally behind her.

Deepa, who is in Delhi, said in the evening: “While talking to my AICC leaders, I got the impression that they were convinced Mamata Banerjee was trying to scuttle the AIIMS-like hospital in Raiganj in order to weaken the Congress base in north Bengal. So, the AICC’s nod for an all-out fight against the chief minister’s narrow politics is a good thing. We shall take our movement to south Bengal, too.”

Deepa, who has got the Congress’s Burrabazar unit president Santosh Pathak and a host of other district chiefs from south Bengal to rally behind her, has planned a string of rallies in Calcutta, Nadia, Hooghly and Murshidabad after the Pujas.

“We shall tell people how the chief minister is resorting to narrow politics to scuttle the Raiganj project,” the Congress MP, who is a known Mamata-baiter, added.

In Malda, minister Subrata said the Congress was being “stubborn” about the project’s location. “I don’t know why Congress leaders are insisting on getting the AIIMS-like hospital in Raiganj when the government has its own land for such a project in Kalyani, which is closer to Calcutta. I want to tell the leaders not to play with fire because the state might be deprived of such a super-speciality hospital because of squabbles between us,” he said.