| A CPM supporter sells booklets and leaflets at Dhupguri. Pix: Biplab Basak
Dhupguri, May 1: A host of promises, a recce of the development work undertaken by the Left Front government in Bengal in the last 29 years and a warning to owners of closed tea gardens.
Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee touched upon all these and more in his 45-minute speech today. Bhattacharjee is here on a two-day tour of the region ' which will go for polls on May 8, the fourth phase of elections ' to woo voters.
To a crowd of 10,000 that had assembled at the Regulated Market grounds here, 62 km from Alipurduar town, the chief minister promised electricity to all villages by March 2007.
Flanked by forest minister Jogesh Barman, Mantu Bose, a member of the state committee of the CPM, Banamali Roy, the sabhadhipati of Jalpaiguri zilla parishad, and a host of Left Front who's who, Bhattacharjee appealed to people to recollect the development work undertaken in the last 29 years.
'We have progressed in the agriculture, industry, electricity, education and drinking water sectors. We have produced more than 170 lakh tonne of rice which is more than the requirement of the state,' he claimed.
'In the production of vegetables, we ' particularly the north Bengal districts ' have achieved the first position in the country. But we have to set up multi-purpose cold storages to preserve vegetables, otherwise they will rot like they did this year.'
Highlighting the industrial growth, Bhattacharjee said Dabur has already set up a unit in Jalpaiguri where pineapple juice will be extracted and then exported. 'From Malda too, we are exporting mangoes to other countries. Without central help, we have advanced greatly in the industry sector.'
In response to the frequent allegation levelled against the state government that the region has been neglected, the chief minister said: 'At the gram panchayat levels, we spend more here than in south Bengal though villages in Purulia, Midnapore, Bankura are in worse condition.'
The chief minister, who had arrived here around 4.15 pm, started for Malbazar around an hour later where he addressed another meeting. He then went over to Siliguri. He will address two rallies there tomorrow.
Earlier in the afternoon, Bhattacharjee had introduced the four Left Front candidates to the crowd ' Burman who is contesting from Falakata, Gobinda Roy, the Forward Bloc candidate from Jalpaiguri, Sukhmoit Oraon, the CPM candidate from Nagracata, and Lakshmi Kanta Roy, the CPM candidate from Dhupguri.
The chief minister, however, steered clear of any controversy. With two election observers present at the meeting, he refrained from saying anything against the election commission.
Emphasising the need to stand by tea garden workers, Bhattacharjee said: 'I have repeatedly warned garden owners that they will not be allowed to cheat the workers. We will have to save the estates at any cost.'
In a message to separatist forces and KLO militants, Bhattacharjee said people of all communities have to live together, 'otherwise it will become like Gujarat'.