Kolkata, Jul 30: Slamming Pranab Mukherjee's reported comment that constitutional provisions would be followed for financial assistance to West Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today asked whether the Centre followed constitutional provisions during the Singur and Nandigram episodes.
“You (Centre) yourself came out to salvage the CPI(M) government in the state several times, but in the case of forcible farmland acquisition in Singur and the Nandigram massacre did you follow the Constitution?” she asked during an interview with Bengali TV news channel ‘Star Ananda'. “I am not taking his (Pranab Mukherjee's) utterances in good spirit. We are not seeking a package from Centre in an arbitrary manner. We are keeping a watch on the situation,” she said.
“I can tolerate everything. But not insult to the people of West Bengal. We are not seeking alms from Centre. It is our right. Bengal should be considered as a special case as we are carrying on with a paralysed economy,” she said.
Mukherjee had reportedly said at a meeting with party MLAs yesterday that the Centre could not go beyond constitutional provisions in assisting the state financially. “It is not unconstitutional to seek financial assistance for Bengal which has been left bankrupt during the 35-year rule of the Left Front,” Banerjee retorted.
Stating that her government had inherited a debt burden of over Rs 2 lakh crore, Banerjee, whose party Trinamool Congress is the second largest ally of the ruling UPA, questioned why the Centre did not monitor the financial situation in West Bengal during Left Front rule.
Claiming that the Prime Minister himself had favoured a special financial package for the state, she said, “I met the Prime Minister once with the demand and also met the Union Finance minister. The state Finance minister Amit Mitra also met the Union Finance minister in Delhi.”
Criticising the Union Finance Minister, Banerjee said, “We may not be a pundit like him. He has been in politics longer. He knows a lot and is a great and respected leader. We may be servants, but we will protect the prestige of West Bengal.”
Asked when the Prime Minister had sanctioned a special package for other states, Banerjee said during the prime ministership of A B Vajpayee, Andhra Pradesh was given a special financial package by the Centre.
The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh at that time was Chandrababu Naidu, chief of TDP, a key ally in the NDA government.
Banerjee said the Centre was like “parents who take care of states as its children under the federal set-up...If a child is physically handicapped, it is given special care by the parents”.
The Chief Minister said the state's Finance Secretary C M Bachawat was sent to Delhi recently for securing funds from the Centre. His visit was followed up with that by the state Finance Minister last week.
Banerjee said the depth of the financial crisis could not be assessed prior to the Assembly elections.
“The situation has been left to such a pass by the previous government that there was hardly any funds left for paying salaries of employees. We are not responsible for this situation. We took over the reins of the state only two months ago. Our MPs will raise the issue of the crisis when Parliament meets next week,” she said.
Asked whether there would be another vote-on-account or a full-fledged budget in the Assembly next month, Banerjee said it would be decided by the state finance minister. To another question, the Chief Minister said no Central assistance has been received yet for development schemes for the people of Maoist-hit Junglemahal. PTI