Rahul blasts Left, dubs them prisoners of past (Lead, Changing dateline)

Bankura (West Bengal), April 24 (Inditop) Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi Friday launched a scathing attack on West Bengal’s ruling Communists, accusing them of failing to provide basic amenities and of being buried in the past.

“The Communist government says it works for the poor. We send money for rojgar yojna (employment scheme), education, health, but that money does not reach the poor,” Gandhi told a rally in Bankura, 210 km from Kolkata.

“This happens every year. We send money, half of it reaches you, the rest doesn’t. What type of a Communist government is this which doesn’t help the poor?” he asked.

Gandhi kicked off his visit to West Bengal with two rallies in the tribal-dominated western districts – first Purulia and then Bankura, both of which are hotspots of Maoist activities.

In Purulia, 320 km from Kolkata, he said: “The education level here is low. There are no signs of health facilities. The Maoists are active. It seems your Left (Front) government has forgotten you.”

During his brief 8-10 minute speeches in both districts, he accused the Left government of neglecting health and education and said the state was not implementing the centre’s welfare schemes.

“We have sent money for you from Delhi for implementing welfare programmes. But the state government did not implement them… Thousands of crores are left unutilised… Even 40 percent of the funds for the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) were not utilised,” Gandhi said.

“There are 400,000 NREGA cards in Purulia, but only 950 people got 100 days’ work.”

In contrast, every eligible person’s name has been fed into computers in Congress-ruled Andhra Pradesh and 100 days’ job ensured, he said.

“You should put pressure on the government. If the government does not work, change it.”

Criticising Left parties for withdrawing support to the Congress-led government on the India-US civilian nuclear deal last year, he said: “We told them we need the deal for the county’s future… for fulfilling our huge needs for electricity in future… They said no.”

Gandhi said: “They (the Left) talk of the past. They don’t talk of the future. They are not interested in issues like future energy needs. They are talking of an India 70 years back.

“As a result, you are suffering. For India to progress, all of you, particularly the youngsters, have to go ahead. We all need to bring a change,” he said.

Gandhi, clad in a white kurta-pyjama, hopped to the two districts in a helicopter and was given a cheerful welcome by thousands of supporters of the Congress and its ally Trinamool Congress.

In Bankura, canvassing for state Congress working president Subrata Mukherjee, Gandhi sent people into raptures by beginning his speech in Bengali: “Bankurar manusher joi hok (Three cheers for the people of Bankura)”.

At both meetings, Gandhi said the country needed to fight terrorism, but the “biggest fight is against poverty” and appealed to people to choose a government in New Delhi that would fight for the poor.

He also urged people to make Manmohan Singh the prime minister again.

Criticising the National Democratic Alliance government and its India Shining slogan of 2004, Gandhi said: “The NDA government was a government for a chosen few. If you work for a chosen few, the country doesn’t develop that fast.”