Prime Minister calls for regime change in West Bengal
Katwa/Dum Dum: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised to restore peace and launch an industrial revolution in West Bengal if the Congress-Trinamool Congress alliance is voted to power.
Addressing election meetings in the state, the prime minister said it was time for a regime change after 34 years of Left Front rule and pledged to give the state's falling education standards a push if the opposition alliance won the popular mandate.
Singh, who held well-attended rallies at Katwa in Burdwan district and Kolkata's suburb Dum Dum in North 24-Parganas district, appealed to the people to "give a chance" to the Congress-Trinamool alliance to govern the state.
The Dum Dum rally was politically significant as Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee shared the dais with the prime minister, Cognress heavyweight Pranab Mukherjee was also present.
It was the first joint meeting of top leaders of the Congress and Trinamool Congress during the assembly election campaign.
Addressing Banerjee as ‘my sister,' Singh described the Trinamool supremo as a valued partner of the United Progressive Alliance government and said she has always worked hard for the betterment of West Bengal.
The prime minister regretted that West Bengal lagged behind other states in industry and many factories had closed down. How would the people get employment if investments did not come, he asked.
"There is a huge demand for manpower for industry, including information and technology. But there is no infrastructure. Investment in these sectors is hugely required. Only our alliance can bring in the necessary investments... a new industrial revolution," he said.
Recalling his experience of working with many well-known economists from the state such as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen and Sukhomoy Chakroborty, the prime minister regretted that the state's educational standards had "sharply deteriorated."
"According to the 2001 census, Bengal stood 18th in literacy. According to the just concluded census, the state has fallen further behind to 20th spot, behind smaller states like Nagaland and Manipur," said Singh.
He said if the opposition alliance was voted to power, the state would march ahead in education. "We will have to work very hard. The infrastructure and teaching staff need to be improved."
Hitting out at the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) led government, Manmohan Singh expressed concern over the law and order situation and said political violence had affected the people hard.
"Law and order is a matter of deep concern. People do not feel safe. Political violence has had ill-effects on the people. Central forces had to be deployed at many places like Jhargram (in West Midnapore district).
"If we come to power, our first job will be to establish peace and order," Singh said.
Singh stressed it was time to usher in a regime change.
"I appeal to the masses to give the Congress-Trinamool alliance a chance to govern the state.
Second phase: Over 80% turnout
The second phase of West Bengal's electoral battle passed off peacefully yesterday with around 83 per cent of electors voting in 50 constituencies across three districts.
Enthusiasm was high among first-time voters as also with old-timers, and women outnumbered men in many booths that saw long queues since voting opened at 7am.
Over 9.3 million people in 11,531 polling stations spread over Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum districts were eligible to vote to elect their representatives from among 293 candidates.
Murshidabad has 22 seats, Nadia 17 and Birbhum 11.
After a record 84.11 per cent turnout in the first phase of elections April 18 (54 constituencies in six northern districts), the poll caravan has moved on to south Bengal, which holds the key to government formation as over 80 per cent of the seats are from this region.