Buddha rebuts PM on non-performance

Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Sunday hit back at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for dubbing his Left Front government an "overall failure", saying only people can have the "last word" on his performance.

A belligerent Bhattacharjee said he was surprised at the prime minister`s statement and also countered him on some of the points raised during his election meetings yesterday.

"I am surprised at what the Prime Minister said yesterday. I don`t know when he discovered that the state government was not working," Bhattacharjee said at a `Meet- the-Press` programme here and observed that the government`s performance would be only judged by the people.

"It doesn`t concern me what the PM said about me, the last word is what people think of me," the CPI-M stalwart said.

The Prime Minister, he said, had never complained to him about his government`s alleged non-performance during his meetings in Delhi.

Rather, Singh was always eager to know about the progress in land distribution, new industries in the state and the proposed investment in the state by Japan, he said.

"The Prime Minister had come to the state to campaign for the Assembly elections. He had to follow his party`s line," Bhattacharjee said.

Observing that West Bengal has slipped into the morass in `all fields,` — agriculture, industry, investment, health and education, the prime minister said yesterday, "The chariot of the administration has come to a halt in the state.

On other issues, he chief minister said he was also surprised by another comment by Singh that Muslims in West Bengal were worse off than those in Gujarat.

"I did not expect such comments from Singh. Muslims in our state live in peace and harmony; whereas those in Gujarat live in a state of uncertainty.

Besides, Muslims in our state get scholarships and business loans. No state gives the kind of loans that the Muslims get from the West Bengal Minority Development Corporation," he claimed.

Bhattacharjee also dismissed the Prime Minister`s comment that West Bengal`s literacy rate was below that of Manipur and Nagaland, saying the state`s literacy rate was 77 per cent, which was higher than the national average of 76 per cent.

The chief minister said that the prime minister, in his election rallies did not touch upon the issues of price rise, corruption or Maoist threat.

When pointed out that the prime minister had once described him as the `best` chief minister in the country, he said, "May be, he changed his mind on the eve of the election.

This is not unusual. After all, he attended a public meeting and had to say something."

Asked if he had any message for Singh for his comments yesterday, Bhattacharjee replied in the negative, saying, "He is the Prime Minister. He is doing his job and I am doing mine."