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Mitra pricks Centre on Rahul visit eve

Calcutta, March 24: Amit Mitra today pointed to “facts and figures” in an attempt to establish how the Centre had deprived Bengal of Rs 86,000 crore over the past three years, the pitch an apparent attack on the Congress a day before Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the city.

“The Centre has deprived Bengal in the past three years. According to an estimate prepared today, I found that the chief minister is right. The Centre has deprived Bengal of over Rs 86,000 crore since 2011-12,” Mitra told a news conference at Nabanna this evening.

Sources said the finance minister’s attack on the Centre today had echoes of the oft-repeated criticism of the UPA government by the chief minister.

Trinamul insiders said Mamata Banerjee, who has recently highlighted the “threats” posed by the BJP in the four-cornered Lok Sabha polls in the state, could focus on attacking the Congress in her rallies.

“I have had a discussion with the chief minister before revealing the facts and figures,” Mitra said.

According to a minister, Mamata had endorsed Mitra’s plans to refer to the “facts and figures” to show how several development projects could not be undertaken in the state for lack of funds.

Congress vice-president Rahul has been touring the country to highlight the UPA government’s development projects. He will hold a workers’ meeting on the Sahid Minar grounds tomorrow.

“We could have taken up development projects for the minorities, farmers and students in backward areas…. But the Centre deprived us with a political motive,” Mitra said.

Trinamul insiders said Mitra’s blaming the Centre for the lack of development projects in Bengal was an indication that the party would focus on the Congress in the next few campaign rallies.

“What the finance minister is trying to establish is that we could not undertake some projects as the Centre deprived us of funds. This (the attack) was required as we need to criticise both the Congress and the BJP,” a minister said.

While it is true that the Centre has deducted money for debts accumulated during the Left regime that aggravated further because of Mamata’s fiscal profligacy, the Centre cannot be accused of discrimination as rules allow it to deduct interest and a part of the principal on past debt.

According to Nabanna officials, Bengal did not get the full allotment on various projects over the past three years as it failed to submit utilisation certificates.

“For example, if the Centre promises to give Rs 100 crore for a year for five years under a scheme, the state has to submit utilisation certificates of 70 per cent of the funds before staking claim to the remaining amount. The state failed to do this,” an official said in Nabanna.

Another official said the state had received Rs 242.91 crore under a scheme in 2013-14, but it had used only Rs 49.64 crore so far.

“We committed mistakes and that’s why the Centre could do what it did,” said an official.

The chief minister today laid stress on completing projects on time. In a meeting held at Nabanna with departmental secretaries, Mamata told the officials that they should take responsibility of monitoring the projects as she would be busy campaigning the next two months.

“The chief minister laid stress on completion of projects on time. She also asked officials to get in touch with Delhi if funds were not released on time,” an official said.