Mamata uses rail budget to needle Left Front


Kolkata : Trinamool Congress chief and Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee Friday lost no opportunity to needle West Bengal’s ruling Left Front when she proposed a new rail line from Singur to Nandigram and sops for Lalgarh – areas in the state that have witnessed violent anti-Left agitations.

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Exhibiting shrewd political sense in her wide array of proposals for West Bengal in the 2009-10 rail budget, arguably the highest sops the state has got since independence, Banerjee Friday let go no opportunity to woo her votebank with an eye to the 2011 state polls.

She announced a new line from Singur to Nandigram, the two spots that saw intense and often violent struggle against land acquisition which played a major role in the debacle of the Left Front in the Lok Sabha polls.

During her speech, Banerjee also twice referred to Lalgarh – a West Midnapore district tribal enclave which is giving sleepless nights to the LF government after Maoists declared it a “liberated” zone, forcing the government to send central and state security personnel to drive out the rebels.

The first mention of Lalgarh came when she announced a 1,000 MW captive power plant in West Midnapore’s neighbouring Purulia distict.

“This project is of great importance as it would be located in an under developed tribal area, and will help in providing employment and bringing the tribal people into the mainstream,” she said, and took the name of Lalgarh by veering away from her written budget speech.

A little later, she proposed new rail connectivity between “Salboni-Jhargram via Lalgarh, Belpahari”.

Banerjee’s sops for Lalgarh come at a time when the LF is going all out to shower development projects in the belt, even going to the extent to stationing eight officers of secretary rank in the area for ascertaining the needs of the people there.

The railways minister also proposed setting up of a railway land bank for industrial purposes.

In the wake of the tussle over industrialisation and land acquisition, the LF’s failure to come up with a land bank has been a major campaign point for the Trinamool-led opposition.

So, Banerjee’s announcement of the railway ministry finalising a land bank could be interpreted as her way of rubbing salt in the Left Front’s wounds.