Jalpaiguri/Siliguri: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi Tuesday attacked the Mamata Banerjee government in West Bengal for failing to ensure development and jobs and not being different from the Left regime it ousted.
Congress Party Vice President Rahul Gandhi during a public rally. File pic
Returning the fire, Banerjee, also the Trinamool Congress chief, called Gandhi a "fair weather friend" who makes an appearance only during the poll season and said leaders who never knew what poverty was should not talk big.
Addressing an election rally at Nagrakata in Jalpaiguri district, Gandhi also alleged that central government funds sent to the state never reached the beneficiaries.
"Bengal has contributed largely for the country but unfortunately it has not progressed as desired," he said in his first visit to the state after the announcement of Lok Sabha polls.
"Earlier there was a Communist government here... Communism failed in Russia, (it) changed in China and fortunately also in Bengal...
"People had hoped the new government (in the state) will work for development, for education, for creating jobs and employment. Unfortunately the Trinamool government has done the same things for which it fought against the Communists," Gandhi added.
Criticizing the lack of infrastructure in the region, the Congress leader said his party was making efforts to ensure the money sent for the welfare of the common man reaches the ultimate beneficiaries.
"What kind of roads has the Bengal government given you? When there are no proper roads, no schools, no hospitals, it's you who have to suffer. We send crores of rupees to the Bengal government. It's your money and not for the MPs and MLAs here. But the sad fact is, this money reaches Kolkata but not you.
"We hope a day comes when this money, which is yours, reaches you. We are making efforts to ensure that your roads reach you."
He said money meant for development should not be "pocketed by contractors and leaders".
Hours after Gandhi's offensive, Banerjee launched a counter from a rally in the neighbouring Darjeeling district's Naxalbari.
She accused the Congress of robbing the state of its due share of money.
"Leaders from Delhi are claiming they have given us crores of rupees and we never spent it. Shameless leaders, those who never know what poverty is, those who are born as landlords, they are talking big," Banerjee said, in an indirect reference to Gandhi.
Banerjee, however, did not name anyone, and said she never takes "unworthy names".
"Those who have taken away Rs 74,000 crore towards debt repayment and leave us with nothing, they are talking big. Not only that, they have not given us Rs 87,283 crore which we are entitled to," she said.
On Gandhi's comments on the condition of the roads, Banerjee said: ""Those who are talking about roads, I must remind them, the roads are not state roads, rather national highways and are the reasonability of the centre." Her tireless pleas to have them repaired have fallen on deaf ears, she added.
"They are behaving as if they are doling out money to Bengal from their own pockets. Don't dare me to open my mouth. If I do that, many things will come tumbling out," she warned.
Continuing her verbal assault, Banerjee said: "There are some fair-weather friends who make appearances only in the poll season. After that, they are not seen... and I am not a rootless leader."
In an apparent claim, that the Congress would have to seek post-poll support from her, she said: "After the polls, there will be some who will fall at my feet, but to no avail."