From "head of the new government" to "my sister" and "harbinger of parivartan", adulation for the Trinamool Congress chief flowed freely, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee shared the dais with Mamata Banerjee on Saturday in the biggest show of alliance between the two parties.
"If you vote for the Trinamool-Congress government in Bengal, our first task will be to usher in peace and development, to bring development to the sectors of education and health and provide employment," Singh said.
"The vehicle of governance has stopped in Bengal," the Prime Minister said. Singh's words mirrored what Congress president Sonia Gandhi had said about Left Front rule in the state in her campaign trip to North Bengal and Nadia.
Reacting sharply to Singh's rally for Trinamool candidates, which included Bratya Basu (from Dum Dum), CPI(M) central committee member Mohd Selim said, "The Prime Minister would be sharing the dais for a candidate who has openly professed support for Maoist activities."
Criticising the Left Front for its failure to perform in 34 years, the PM highlighted areas where Bengal lagged behind all the other states. He said the Left Front had no dreams for Bengal and had lost touch with the masses.
Citing instances one by one, he said, "In the 2001 census, Bengal was No. 18 in literacy rate. Now, it's No. 20 - lagging even behind such states as Manipur and Nagaland," the prime minister said. "Soniaji has sent me here with a message. Only the Trinamool and Congress alliance can bring in fresh life for Bengal. We'll provide all assistance to the new government," he added.
"We're really grateful to the Prime Minister for his visit," Mamata Banerjee said. Lambasting the Left in her usual style, she said, "The CPI(M) is an affront to Left politics. Don't vote for the BJP, either, nor for Independents," Banerjee, who waited for almost an hour with her party leaders for the PM, said.
"In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, we realised that the Left Front could be defeated through our alliance," Mukherjee said.
Landing at Katwa, in Burdwan district, 160 km to the north of Kolkata, to address his first election rally in the 2011 Bengal elections at 11.40 am on Saturday, Singh alleged that the Left Front government had done nothing for youths, most of whom were without jobs.