Cong terror slur on Trinamul – shame shame ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH STAFF REPORTER
Calcutta, May 7: Congress candidates have allegedly been forced to pull out from 79 of the 382 North 24-Parganas wards from which they had filed nominations because of a “reign of terror and threats” by estranged ally Trinamul Congress.
All 79 withdrawals took place today, one of them after the candidate’s husband was allegedly abducted.
District Congress presi- dent Tapas Majumdar said the husband of a candidate for the Barrackpore municipali-ty had gone to the bazaar this morning when seven Trinamul supporters on motorbikes took him away and called his wife to say he would be harmed unless she withdrew.
Later in the afternoon, the candidate, whose name Majumdar requested The Telegraph not to reveal as she could be “killed”, went and withdrew her nomination.
“Armed Trinamul men criss-crossed the Barrackpore area since morning, intimidating our candidates and forcing them to withdraw,” Majumdar said.
As many as 65 of the Congress candidates who withdrew today — the last day for doing so before the May 30 polls — were from the nine municipalities in the Barrackpore area.
Many Congress workers in the district called it “Trinamul’s reign of terror”, borrowing a phrase Mamata Banerjee loves to use to describe the Left rule in the state.
Mamata’s party is on a high in North 24-Parganas since the panchayat polls in 2008. Last year, it consolidated its grip, winning all five Lok Sabha seats in the district.
The fear of a split in anti-Left votes apparently made the party pull out all stops to ensure there were fewer Congress candidates in a district where as many as 21 municipalities are going to the polls.
As candidate after candidate went to strike off their names, complaints poured into the North 24-Parganas Congress headquarters about “armed Trinamul activists” moving around on motorcycles and threatening them.
Majumdar said the party had lodged specific complaints with Barrackpore subdivisional officer Ajay Paul. The officer said he had instructed police to “inquire into them and take appropriate action”.
Many of the candidates did not lodge complaints “fearing the consequences”.
District magistrate Vinod Kumar said: “I have asked the returning officers and sub-divisional officers to give me a report tomorrow.”
But the Trinamul chief brushed aside the charges. “Baseless,” Mamata said when asked about them at a news conference this evening.
“These are canards being spread by the CPM. They (the Congress nominees) have withdrawn because they want to work for a grand alliance.”
Former Barrackpore Trinamul MLA Nirmal Ghosh blamed the Congress for failing to keep its flock together. “Some Congress candidates withdrew after realising that they might lose their deposits.”
Rs 900cr bid to win voters – But will they get it ?!!
Calcutta, May 7: The Bengal government is set to bag a $200 million (Rs 900 crore) loan from the World Bank to embark on rural development projects in a desperate bid to recover lost ground before next year’s Assembly elections.
Since the CPM’s stunning setbacks in the 2008 panchayat polls and last year’s Lok Sabha elections, the party had been thinking of ways to win back rural voters and this loan may be of “immense help’’, said a CPM minister.
“We lost a few thousand gram panchayats and panchayat samitis in 2008, besides four zilla parishads. In the parliamentary polls, the Trinamul Congress swept south Bengal. So, something had to be done to get back our village vote bank. We needed a substantial am- ount of money to embark on rural projects independently (independent of the Centre) and the loan had been sought with this objective in mind,” the minister added.
Officials of the state gov- ernment, Union finance ministry and the World Bank met in Delhi last week to sign a draft deal that would pave the way for the Rs 900-crore “soft’’ loan that Bengal will get after a final nod from a Washington meeting of the bank in June.
The principal secretary of the state’s panchayat and rural development department, M.N. Roy, told The Telegraph the June 8 approval was “a mere formality”.
“This loan will be a big development for us. We expect the money to come in three-four months. The important aspect of the loan is that we won’t have to pay any interest but only a nominal service charge and there are no conditions attached,” added Roy.
The service charge will be less than 2 per cent a year on the reducing balance. The money is due in August 2010 but the repayment will start only in 2020 and continue till 2045.
“The state government’s track record hasn’t been good in areas like road construct- ion, sinking deep tube wells and providing sanitation and healthcare. Not much has been done to build village houses under the Indira Awas Yojana. All this has resulted in the big dent in the ruling front’s biggest support base. Having seen that, it began persuading Delhi a few months ago to get in touch with the World Bank,” said a panchayat department official.
According to sources in the panchayat department, the initial plan is to select 1,000 gram panchayats from among 49,000 on the basis of their performance over the past three years in terms of development work and then allocate grants to them from the loan.
The other rural bodies will be allotted funds later on the basis of the experience gained from the manner in which the first 1,000 utilise their money.
“The money will be spent to improve water supply, drainage and sewerage, repair schools, build roads and bore deep tube wells,” an official said.
“The loan will also be used to train panchayat functionaries so that the funds are effectively used. There will be a performance monitoring system for all the gram panchayats that receive the money,” he added.