Day after, CM ticks off PM

"So when did the Prime Minister discover that development has come to a standstill in Bengal?" With these words Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee hit back at the Prime Minister on Sunday, a day after Manmohan Singh, in the company of Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, told a rally in Dum Dum that West Bengal has slipped into the morass in all fields from agriculture to industry to investment to health and education.

Bhattacharjee said he was taken aback by the Singh's statement because whenever he met the Prime Minister in Delhi "he used to be very enthusiastic about Bengal's land distribution programmes and industrialisation process".

"I don't know what made him make those allegations. May be he said these because of the alliance compulsion," the chief minister said at a press briefing in Kolkata. When pointed out Singh had once described him as the "best" chief minister in the country, Bhattacharjee 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."

The chief minister said he was not bothered about what the PM said about him and went on to add, "The last word is what people think of me."

Stating that Singh's comment that Muslims in West Bengal are worse off than those in Gujarat, Bhattacharjee said: "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 added.

Bhattacharjee also dismissed the Prime Minister's comment that West Bengal's literacy rate was below that of Manipur and Nagaland. "So far as literacy rate of Bengal is concerned, while the national literacy rate is 74 per cent, our rate is 77 per cent. The prime minister's comments are so unfortunate. In any case he has done his job, campaigning for his party,'' Bhattacharjee told mediapersons.

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