Need funds for bread and butter: Mamata

Need funds for bread and butter: Mamata
NEW DELHI: West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday sought to drive home the point that her demand for a bailout package from the Centre was not unreasonable by saying, "We are not asking for funds for swimming pools and beautification, but for bread and butter." She later met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and there too the main topic of discussion was additional funds for the state.

On her way, the chief minister got off her car to have tea at a roadside stall on Pandara Road, but had to give it up midway as a crowd gathered.

Minister of state for health Dinesh Tribedi accompanied her to the meeting with the PM, generating some speculation on whether he would be the railway minister whenever a cabinhet reshuffle takes place. Asked about the issue, Banerjee said the portfolio will remain with TMC.

Her focus during her visit to the Capital, the chief minister told the media, "We are passing through a disastrous situation. Our priority is to at least stabilize it and provide roti, kapda and makan (food, clothes and shelter)... We never asked for a special package. Whatever we deserve, we should get... so that we can provide basic necessities of bread and butter to the people."

 Mamata has been harping on the fact that 34 years of Left Front rule had left the state in debt and totally cash strapped to ensure that her demand for an additional Rs 47,000 crores is not turned down by the Centre. Her first meeting in the Capital therefore was with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on Monday and her trip will end with a meeting with Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia. On Monday, she had made Mukherjee with the specific demand for additional funds for Bengal.

She also found some time to take a look at the renovation going on at the Circular Road house that the West Bengal government will be using in Delhi for the chief minister and other important guests, but was unhappy that the old heritage building was demolished and a new four-storeyed structure has come up there.

In a bid to ensure transparency in the state's administration, the CM announced that her government would bring out a "white paper" on the "precarious" financial situation and make salary payments to all its employees through banks from September 1. "Talks are being held with all banks in this regard," she said.

Taking a wide range of questions on Gorkhaland issue, land acquisition and development projects to Maoists at the Press Club here, the CM said inclusion of the Prime Minister or Chief Justice of India in the ambit of Lokpal "hardly matters" in the fight against corruption. "It is not a big question... whether PM, CJI is included... Do you think that inclusion of one person will strengthen the fight against corruption?" she asked, adding that she was with the UPA and whatever is decided on these she will go with it.

Banerjee however clarified that she was all for fighting corruption. According to her, the best ways to do that right now was to bring black money back to the country and to bring about electoral reforms. "Election Commission should go about the reforms the right away and state funding of polls can go a long way in curbing corruption," she said.

The TMC chief said it was Congress' prerogative to decide on whether Rahul Gandhi should be made the Prime Minister. She said this when she was asked about Congress leader Digvijay Singh's suggestion. "I love this (Gandhi) family. I had good relations with Rajiv Gandhi and have good relations with Soniaji, Rahul and Priyanka... it is an internal matter of Congress. They will decide... if they allow it, as a partner we will support the UPA government," Banerjee said.

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