Kolkata/Canning (WB), Apr 25: Ahead of the third phase of polls, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the Centre has been keeping tab on law and order in West Bengal, which he held was "the worst governed state", with its financial health in a mess.
"If the CPI(M) thinks that we don't record what is happening in West Bengal, it is wrong. We know what has happened and what has been happening in the last 34 years in the state," he told a press conference in Kolkata and while campaigning at Canning in South 24 Parganas district.
Chidambaram said that ever since his take-over of the Home ministry, "I have been carefully watching the situation in West Bengal. For two and a half years ago, I have been keeping record of law and order in the state."
"For too long we had a government that neglected governance. West Bengal is the worst-governed state in the country and our immediate concern is law and order," the union minister, who was here to campaign for the Congress-Trinamool Congress combine, said.
"I am constrained to say that sub-standard administration exists in West Bengal whose financial health is precarious," he said.
"For the last two to four months I have been bringing to the notice of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and his colleagues that law and order is deteriorating.
"However, the chief minister was in a state of denial and the bubble burst when Netai (when nine people were killed in West Midnapore district on January 7) occurred," he said.
He cited records to claim that in 2010, "204 persons were killed in inter-party clashes last year, of whom 99 were Trinamool Congress and 60 Congress workers.
"This year so far 26 persons, including 14 Trinamool Congress and four Congress activists, were killed in political violence in West Bengal," he said.
"I squarely blame the CPI-M and its cadres for procuring arms and spreading violence and turning the state into a killing field," he said.
Chidambaram claimed that had it been any other state, the chief minister would have resigned at the failure of the administration to control violence.
He said, "I sincerely hope that after a change in government, the Centre and the state government will work together to stop the killings."
The union minister urged the electorate to make a new beginning from May 13 (the date of counting) "when the world will know that a new government has come to replace the Left Front administration in West Bengal."
Chidambaram alleged that the ruling Left Front ignored lawlessness to cling to power 'at any cost' and said that the police and the civil administration had let the people down.
"CPI(M) owes an explanation to the people why they rendered the police and administration their order-takers."
Chidambaram said that since 2004, revenues of all states had increased and none had to resort to overdraft for the last four to five years, with the only exception being West Bengal.
Describing the state's cash position as 'precarious', the minister said that during 2010-11, West Bengal had taken overdraft seven times and once during 2011-12.
"It is one of the debt-stressed states where the tax-GDP ratio is the lowest among general category states," he said.
The state had a borrowing ceiling, he said, but it continued to borrow in excess of the limit as it had been allowed to do so.
Chidambaram said that in April, Bengal had gone for open-market borrowings for Rs 3173 crore and described the revenue deficit as 'worrisome' and interest payments 'high'.
"The present government cannot improve upon that, but will make it only worse."
Claiming that the CPI(M) and the Left Front would be defeated in the Assembly elections, Chidambaram said, "the defeat of the CPI(M) should start from Canning (East). From all records I get, you have made up your mind to vote for the Trinamool Congress-Congress combine. But I also know that you are afraid what may happen after election."
The minister said that he would speak to the Election Commission to ensure full protection to the voters "till May 13 and afterwards. I want you to come out to vote with courage. Vote without fear."
Noting that the candidate Abdur Rezzak Mollah at Canning has been representing the seat for the last 39 years and won all elections "in an unfair manner", he said that all the booths in the constituency were sensitive and full protection would be given.
He said that he had come to know that threats had been held out by the CPI(M) in Canning (East) "that it will be a bloody night on May 13 (day of counting) if the CPI(M) loses. Let me see what happens on May 13. I assure you that the government will protect you."
Referring to Mollah, he said, "for 34 years, he is a minister of the Left Front government, but what has been done for Canning? In this part of West Bengal, there is no road, no electricity, no primary health centre, schools, no infrastructure for development. Who is responsible for these ills? There has been no development after Independence."
He said, "Only a new government with new energy and new thinking will help the state turn around. I look forward to a new government coming in Bengal and assume office in a month's time. I have come here to offer my advance congratulation to the people of the state to bring about a change."
Left Front leaders hit back at Chidambaram for his comments about West Bengal's 'deteriorating' law and order and 'precarious' finances.
Left Front chairman Biman Bose said: "These were only election-oriented utterances by Chidambaram which were meant to boost the image of the Congress and the Trinamool Congress alliance."
Bose said in any case the Congress-Trinamool alliance was going to be defeated in the election.
CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta told PTI that Chidrambaram should look in the mirror and judge his own performance as the home minister of the country.
"The man who has failed to bring about peace in Kashmir, the man who failed to bring tranquillity in Manipur, the man who failed to miserably curb Maoist violence everywhere in the country, the man who has made the capital of India as paradise of criminality having the highest record of rape and abductions has no right to speak about the performance of West Bengal or any other country."
Dasgupta said, "It is needless to add that because of his non-performance, he has been shifted from the finance ministry to the home ministry."
Bose also decried Chidambaram for describing the state's finances as 'precarious.'
"Is West Bengal the only state which is facing a debt burden? There are eight states which are facing a similar situation and why was West Bengal singled out? It is surprising that Chidambaram has not mentioned Maharahstra where his party is ruling and which has a high debt burden." PTI