The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre ceases to be state’s ‘step-mother’
- Buddha lists Delhi help in Left Front’s projects

Calcutta, May 19: The rivals are no longer going for each other’s throats. The CPM and the BJP at the Centre are rather going for collaboration, the chief minister told a press meet today.

Bengal, ruled by the CPM-led Left Front for 26 years, is a case in point, said Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, asserting that he did not want a confrontation with the BJP-led Centre.

“We want to strike a working relationship with the Central government. And we have got a positive response from Delhi,” said Bhattacharjee.

Elaborating on his government’s relations with the Centre, the chief minister said he had got its “co-operation” in taking forward Haldia Petrochemicals, bringing KLM back to Calcutta and the coal sector.

That five out of the 17 agro-export zones in the country have been earmarked for Bengal shows the Centre’s positive response to the state’s needs, the chief minister said. The return of the KLM flights to Calcutta was possible after deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani took a “personal initiative”, he indicated.

From the look of things, it appears the state government is in no mood to initiate any major movement against the Centre, led by its most bitter political rival, the BJP. Going by indications, Bhattacharjee’s relations with Advani made a difference in the Centre’s attitude towards the state. The chief minister shares a personal rapport with the deputy Prime Minister and that was said to have stopped the Centre from hauling up the state after panchayat poll bloodbath.

Unlike a decade ago, when the Left accused the Congress-ruled Centre of a “step-motherly” attitude towards the state, it is now likely to criticise the BJP only on specific issues like the Gujarat riots.

Replying to a question, Bhattacharjee said he would be “happy” if Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee was reinducted into the Union Cabinet. “I will be happy if she becomes a minister and works towards the state’s development,” he said.

The chief minister said he had not received a “clean slate” when he took over reins of the sixth front government two years ago and a lot more had to be done in every department, particularly health and education.

“We have a lot to do to improve the quality of education. Why are government schools treated as second-grade institutions' Why have we lost the previous standard' These things will have to be addressed and some very important decisions will have to be taken. We have to make the schools return to their previous standards,” he said.

The quality of teaching at the primary level will have to improve, he said. “We will have to take a strong decision on English at the primary level and imparting training to primary school teachers. We have to work hard to improve the primary and secondary education fronts.” In course of revamping the system, some of the existing policies will have to be revised, he added.

“In the health sector, we are not being able to render services properly. I can’t say everything is fine with the government,” the chief minister confessed.

Referring to the state of industry, Bhattacharjee said the government is bringing about changes in its policy.

“We are trying to define the roles of the special economic zones at Falta and Haldia. We are also updating our Infotech policy,” he said, even while admitting how tips from global consultants, McKinsey, came in handy for the government.

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