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Mamata flays Cong, Singh

Guwahati, Feb. 26: They may have their differences but that didn’t prevent Mamata Banerjee from sharing a shooting range as it were with Narendra Modi today, as the Bengal chief minister and Trinamul Congress chief took potshots at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“What has Singh done for a state that he has represented in the Rajya Sabha since 1991?” she asked a gathering of some 7,000 people at Guwahati’s Sarusajai stadium.

Modi had, at Khanapara, not very far from where Mamata spoke today, asked the same question at his Maha Samavesh rally on February 8. Only, Mamata seemed to fare better: “It’s only during elections that Singh comes to Assam in a chartered flight and then flies back to Delhi. You have sent him to Parliament but what have you got in return?” she asked her audience.

Trinamul Congress has one member in Assam’s 126-member Assembly.

Mamata used Pranab Boro’s self-immolation two days ago to attack the land policies of the Congress governments in Delhi and Assam. “If we join the government in Delhi, we will change the land acquisition policy,” she said. “In Bengal, we have created a land bank and the same model can be adopted elsewhere.”

Boro, a Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) activist, had set himself on fire in front of the Assam secretariat complex at Dispur on February 24. Boro, who had been part of a rally organised to demand permanent land rights, had died in the evening. Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy, who accompanied Mamata to Guwahati, visited Boro’s family and handed over Rs 1 lakh to the family.

Speaking in Hindi, Bengali and a little Assamese, Mamata today accused the Congress of destroying the country. “The Congress and the BJP have a hidden understanding and so you should not vote for any of these national parties,” she said. “They are a syndicate. What we need is parivartan (change).”

“The central government is in a coma,” the Trinamul chief said. “Its proposal to increase the number of work days under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) from 100 days to 150 days for the SC and ST beneficiaries is an election gimmick.”

“They now speak of increasing the number of work days from 100 to 150, when they cannot even pay for 100 days of work. The Centre has not yet been able to release funds to the Bengal government to make payments under MGNREGA,” she said.

Mamata also criticised the Centre for the creation of Telangana. “Why did they have to do it so hurriedly now? What were they doing for the past 10 years?”

Her tirades, however, were not directed at the Centre alone. “We were part of the NDA government when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was there because we had respect for him. But we can’t support those who engineer riots,” she said — a comment that is being seen as an oblique attack on the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Assamese film actor Biju Phukan, who was on the dais with Mamata and members of the party’s Assam unit, said he would like to contest the Lok Sabha election on a Trinamul ticket. Banerjee said she would soon finalise her list of candidates for Assam.


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