In what is seen as a snub to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee skipped their meeting in Malda on Saturday and instead sent her tourism minister to the function.
While Gandhi raised poll pitch in the Congress-dominated Malda, the firebrand Trinamool chief was in Kolkata, taking on private pharmacists, who have been resisting her pet project of fair price pharmacies.
Speaking at the foundation laying ceremony of an engineering institute named after late Congress leader ABA Ghani Khan Choudhury at Narayanpur of Old Malda block, Gandhi stressed that her party was committed to secularism and called for an all-out struggle against communal forces in the Muslim-majority district.
"Economic and social development should go hand-in-hand, for which we need to fight strongly against communal forces," she said.
Gandhi talked about various central government plans, such as MNREGA, JNNURM, Bharat Nirmaan, that are targeted at minorities, backward classes and women.
She said the Centre would soon pass a legislation for protecting women against crimes. Regarding the institute, she said that once it was fully operational, it would benefit the youth of Malda and neighbouring areas in skill development and getting employment opportunities.
Gandhi said, "I came to Malda on April 2008 and promised to set up a technical institute here. I am glad that I have kept my promise. I hope it will stop the migration of youth to neighbouring areas and other states in search of jobs."
Banerjee, meanwhile, turned up unannounced at a private pharmacy close to the state-run SSKM Hospital saying she had received specific complaints that the shop was turning away patients who had purchased medicines from the fair price outlet in the hospital premises.
(With agency inputs)