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  • Published 12.05.02
Malda, May 12 :    Malda, May 12:  Ignoring a BJP central command directive on poll deals with Mamata Banerjee, Tapan Sikdar today exhorted partymen to fight the panchayat elections independently. Addressing party workers at Malda town, the junior communications minister said: "Our fight in Bengal is against the CPM. We are not bothered about what the Trinamul Congress or the Congress are doing now. Moreover, Trinamul is not at all a factor in West Bengal. The party is gradually losing its credibility and you need not consider it as a major player during the ensuing panchayat elections." Sikdar had addressed another rally at Chanchol yesterday as part of a drive to enthuse BJP activists before next year's panchayat polls. The Mamata-baiter's statement came just a day after the state BJP leadership finalised an electoral tie-up with Trinamul and withdrew its candidate for the Onda Assembly byelection. "We will work for the Trinamul Congress and the combine will emerge as a formidable force in the coming days," state BJP vice-president Muzaffar Khan had said yesterday. The minister also tore into the state government, accusing it of not utilising Central funds worth crores of rupees sanctioned under various development schemes for the poor. Quoting from the Comptroller and Auditor General's report at a news conference, Sikdar said West Bengal had failed to utilise Rs 227 crore sanctioned under the Prime Minister's Gram Samriddhi Yojana. He pointed out that funds released between 1997 and 2001 had also gone back to the Centre. Tranches of Rs 611 crore and Rs 350 crore sanctioned under the Golden Jubilee Self-Employment Scheme and the Karma Sunischit Yojana respectively were returned during this period. "In most cases, the Central funds had gone back to Delhi as the state government had failed to sanction 20 per cent state share for utilising various Central funds," Sikdar alleged. The Centre had also sanctioned Rs 126 crore for maintenance of national highways in the state. But the state had utilised only Rs 13 crore. Now the Centre has taken over the responsibility of maintaining National Highway 34, Sikdar said. He also accused the CPM-controlled government of not distributing rice and wheat sent by the Centre. "I know the foodgrain will be distributed just before the panchayat polls to woo the voters," the minister said. Buddha blasts Trinamul Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today slammed Mamata Banerjee for supporting the NDA on the Gujarat issue at a time when several alliance partners had registered their protest against the Prime Minister's handling of the Gujarat issue. He praised former coal minister Ram Vilas Paswan for his "bold" decision to quit the ministry on the issue.