March 22, 2009

Shahi Imam bats for Trinamool-Cong combine

Kolkata: With less than a month for the Lok Sabha polls, Shahi Imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque S M Noorur Rahman Barkati appealed to the Muslim voters of the state to vote for candidates put up by the Trinamool-Congress alliance so that a Congress government can be formed at the Centre.

“What would happen in Singur if Mamata Banerjee was not there?” he asked. “In the last 32 years when the CPM has been in power, nothing has been done to uplift the minorities. We have no access to education or government jobs. The Sachar Committee report shows the sad state of the Muslims in West Bengal,” he added.

The Shahi Imam said when the Left Front government was establishing itself, it took away land from the zamindars and distributed it among the poor. “At that time the Muslim community stood by the Left Front. But today they are taking away land from the poor and giving it to the Tatas,” he said. He added that over the last three decades the “Left Front raj” has become the “gunda raj of the cadres”.

He lambasted the CPM for voting together with the BJP against the secular Congress government in the Centre last year. Pointing out the various problems of the Muslim community in Bengal, he said the Left Front government has not been able to fulfil its promise of making Urdu a second language in schools. “They have taken over our colleges like Lady Brabourne College and now our girls find it difficult to get admission there,” he said.

The Shahi Imam also said he had a discussion with the Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee that when she comes to power, she will try to fulfill the demands of the minority community.

CPI(M) submitted a 13-point list of demands to the poll panel

Kolkata: CPI(M) delegation Thursday met the poll panel team led by Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami at Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi’s residence here. The Lok Sabha elections are slated in West Bengal April 30, May 7 and May 13. The CPI(M) submitted a 13-point list of demands to the poll panel.

The party requested the commission to look into various issues related to the Election Photo Identity Card, voters’ lists, campaign guidelines, disruption of law and order situation, and the election code of conduct during poll canvassing. CPI(M) central committee member Madan Ghosh told a press conference that his party will support and cooperate with the poll panel on the guidelines and the model code of conduct.

“We wanted to bring certain things to the EC’s notice that there are number of cases of violence of guidelines by the major political parties belonging to the opposition in our state,” Ghosh said.
“We hope the commission will definitely look into the issue,” he added.

Poll panel 'discriminatory', says West Bengal's Left Front

KOLKATA,21 March: West Bengal's ruling Left Front is upset with the Election Commission for meeting members of the opposition Trinamool Congress for a longer period than representatives of other parties, including the communists. The poll panel officials had come to West Bengal on a two-day visit during which they held discussions with political parties, giving each party 10 minutes.
However, the Trinamool Congress had a 40-minute meeting with the poll panel officials. The communists have sought a clarification from the Election Commission on the issue. "We want to know on what basis the Election Commission had called the political parties, national as well as state-level, for election-related interaction. They have to explain whether they had called the parties by following an alphabetical order or they had first called the state-level parties and then the national parties," state Left Front chairman Biman Basu said at a press conference here Saturday.
He said the central Election Commission team first called the All India Forward Bloc (AIFB) for the interaction at Raj Bhavan. "So the very next, they should have called All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) if they followed an alphabetical order. But they did not do that. The CEC team called AITC at the end. "When every political party - including Indian National Congress (INC), Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M), Communist Party of India (CPI) - was given only 10 minutes for their dialogue with the CEC team, the AITC got 40 minutes," Basu said.
He continued: "Of course, they (the election commissioners) have certain constitutional powers but that does not mean they can follow a discriminatory process. They should maintain a neutral stand between all political parties." Basu said the Left Front would seek clarification from the election commission on the issue and might write to the panel demanding an explanation.

Forward Bloc ready to join government this time

Kolkata, 20th March: The Forward Bloc released its manifesto for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls on Friday and said that if Third Front comes to power at the Centre, it will join the government. At a press conference, party general secretary Debabrata Biswas said, “The Third Front will come to power and we will join the government.” He said that the Third Front will not project any one as its prime ministerial candidate. “The question of selecting a prime ministerial candidate for a non-BJP and non-Congress combination will arise only after the election. There is no dearth of leaders for the top post,” Biswas said.

He added: “Even Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati has said that she would help in consolidating the Third Front against the Congress and the BJP and the question of choosing a prime minister can be taken up after the elections.” Biswas said that his party will prevent FDI in retail sector if it comes to power. He said his party is not averse to Chandrababu Naidu or any other party in the Third Front though the Left parties had labeled Naidu as pro- America. “But all that is past and he has also changed his stand,” Biswas added.

The Bloc will contest in 23 Lok Sabha seats —- three each in West Bengal, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh, four in Bihar, two each in Delhi and Jharkhand, one each in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka.

RSP MP from Alipurduar Joachim Buxla resigns

KOLKATA, 20 March: The sitting RSP MP from Alipurduar Joachim Buxla on Friday resigned from the party as well as from the Lok Sabha after being denied a party ticket this time. Buxla, in a letter to the RSP’s state leadership in Kolkata, has announced his resignation from both the party and the Lok Sabha. Four-time MP from Alipurduar, Buxla was denied a party ticket this time. Not just Buxla, the RSP this time denied tickets to all its three sitting MPs.
Apart from Buxla, two sitting MPs --Sanat Mondal from Joynagar Lok Sabha seat and Ranen Burman from Balurghat Lok Sabha constituency also did not get a party nomination this time. Of the three sitting MPs, it is Buxla who had lodged strong protest against the party leadership for not giving him the ticket. RSP leader and PWD minister Kshiti Goswami has been in Alipurduar for the past few weeks to hold talks with Buxla to persuade him not to resign.
The RSP, however, stuck to its decision of not giving Buxla a nomination this time even after his protest. Goswami’s efforts to keep Buxla within the party finally fell through on Friday. Buxla also indicated that he might contest the Alipurduar seat as an Independent candidate and in that case, the West Bengal minister of state for PWD, Manohar Tirkey, who is contesting the seat in place of Buxla, might face difficulties to retain the constituency.

West Bengal budget tries to help people in meltdown: Finance Minister

Kolkata, March 20: Providing sops to a cross section of people, West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta Friday presented a Rs.70-million deficit budget in the state assembly for 2009-10. Referring to the “severe worldwide recession”, Dasgupta later told reporters that the “budget is aimed at helping the common people to increase their purchasing power in this difficult time”.

However, the budget proposals did not include any tax rebate. In a bid to provide some relief to the “poorer people” during the global economic meltdown, the budget proposed to distribute rice at Rs.2 per kg for Below Poverty Line card holders through ration shops. “This scheme would continue year after year…and the state government has allocated Rs.422 crore (Rs.4.22 billion) as subsidy for the entire year for this programme,” Dasgupta said in his speech.

While listing the industrial achievements of the state last year, Dasgupta refered to the Tata Nano project not materialising in Singur “due to opposition from a section of the people”. “It is necessary to mention that the realised investment and employment generation would have increased further, if the small car manufacturing unit at Singur could have completed the remaining part of investment and could be linked with the production of downstream units.”

The state government has decided to create a land bank to facilitate setting up of large-scale units in the state by purchasing relatively infertile land from the farmers at a fair price and thereafter by acquiring land in some remaining cases after consulting the farmers. “For this purpose, a decision to create a corpus fund of Rs.500 crore (Rs.5 billion) has been included in the strategy to combat recession,” Dasgupta said.

The state government has decided that it is necessary to create an internal market for information technology (IT) and information technology enabled service (ITeS) units and not make the development of this sector so much dependent on exports. It has allocated Rs.250 million for IT and ITeS and its expansion up to the village level. “As part of the strategy to combat recession, the state government has decided to launch a new scheme of construction and development of housing for the poor and low-income groups with an outlay of Rs.1,000 crore (Rs.10 billion),” he said in the speech.
The state government has planned to appoint 50,000 additional teachers at primary school level. At present, there are 145,000 existing teachers at primary level.