The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha and Pranab pat each other

Farakka, Dec. 17: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Pranab Mukherjee today showered praise on each other, keeping aside the acrimony over Congress MP Adhir Chowdhury's arrest and imprisonment.

The chief minister and the defence minister, who is also state Congress president, were participating in the foundation stone-laying ceremony of a Rs 115-crore cement factory of the Ambuja Group at Kendua, about 290 km from Calcutta.

'We are getting maximum cooperation from the UPA government which we are supporting at the Centre,' Bhattacharjee said. Pointing out the 24 per cent increase in the Planning Commission's allotment to the state this year, he asked: 'Is it not unbelievable'

Bhattacharjee said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had readily agreed when he wrote to him seeking the Centre's nod to set up a floating port along the lines of the one at Shanghai in China.

The chief minister said he would discuss with the Centre the extension of the period of agreement between the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) and the Ambuja Group for the supply of fly ash.

'NTPC has agreed to supply fly ash for the cement factory for 25 years. I will urge the Union power minister to see to it that the NTPC supplies fly ash to the Ambuja Group even after 25 years. I am also requesting Mukherjee to look into the matter,' he said.

Mukherjee reciprocated by praising the ruling Marxists for the management of Bengal's economy. He said the state has clinched the first position in paddy production as a result of land reforms. During the Tenth Plan, the state's growth rate would overtake that of the country's GDP, he added.

Mukherjee's observation apparently embarrassed three Congress legislators from Murshidabad ' Mainul Haque, Mayarani Paul and Niamat Sheikh ' who were on the dais. They had criticised the government in the Assembly for its 'misrule' on several occasions.

A section of Congress functionaries, who stayed away from the programme to protest against Chowdhury's arrest, were dejected by the state Congress chief's praise of the Left Front government.

Zilla parishad sabhadhipati Siddaka Begum, who was among those who boycotted the programme, said: 'Notwithstanding Mukherjee's presence, we had stayed away to protest the government's move to malign our party MP.'

At another function in Behrampore to lay the foundation stone of a water supply plant, Bhattacharjee said the government had taken several steps to provide arsenic-free drinking water but admitted that the results of such efforts still eluded some villages in Murshidabad.

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