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Mamata’s 2013 poll campaign from govt stage
Ire at CPM and Centre

Calcutta, Dec. 24: Mamata Banerjee today used the stage of a government programme to campaign for the panchayat polls, vociferously warning the CPM against “harbouring hopes” of a return and criticising the Centre for “charging interest from the state”.

“Many people have already started thinking that 2013 will be a year where they will again massacre people and occupy areas in Bengal. They are harbouring hopes of ruling the state again. But I am warning the CPM, Congress and the BJP. People do not want you. They will rightfully decide your fate,” the chief minister said at Netaji Indoor Stadium after inaugurating Milan Mela, a fair organised by the government for minority communities.

Training her guns on both the Congress-led government at the Centre and the CPM, Mamata said the two were responsible for the sorry condition of the state’s finances and indicated she might tap the issue in the run-up to the rural polls.

“The Centre is taking away all the state’s money at the beginning of each month. I am left with nothing. The Centre is behaving like a company that has started making a living out of charging interest from Bengal. Only I know how I am running the state,” she said.

“I say stop this practice of charging interest,” the chief minister shouted, thumping the podium. “Defer it by at least three years.”

Since her party came to power in May last year, Mamata has been demanding a moratorium on payment of interest to the tune of Rs 22,000 crore on loans taken by the previous Left Front government.

“If this continues, how will I pay salaries to teachers and government staff? How will I pay the allowances that I have promised the imams and muezzins?” the chief minister asked the gathering.

State ministers, religious leaders from several minority communities and beneficiaries of government schemes were present at the programme.

Painter Shubhaprasanna dressed as Santa Claus

Mamata accused the Centre of “punishing” her for a “crime” committed by the erstwhile government, whom she blamed for the state’s finances being in dire straits. She also accused the Centre of treating Bengal like a beggar.

“The Centre should punish the CPM. Let the people decide the fate of the CPM. But why are you trying to take food away from the plates of the people of Bengal? Are we beggars?” the chief minister thundered.

Mamata claimed the state’s atmosphere was conducive to business. “Close to 100 factories are ready. I myself started 16 ventures when I was the railway minister. I will tell people who are trying to give the impression that the atmosphere in the state is not conducive for business to keep shut,” she said.

Referring to her promises to minority communities, Mamata said: “I have done whatever I promised to the minorities. My biggest achievement has been the inclusion of over 50 minority community sub-castes in the OBC quota for government jobs. Around 12-13 per cent of Muslim youths will benefit from this.”

CPM leader Surjya Kanta Mishra accused the chief minister of using government platforms to campaign for Trinamul and vent her anger on the Opposition. He said the CPM would seek the state election commission’s intervention.