Launching a sharp assault on the Communists, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi on Friday accused them of living in the past and charged West Bengal's Left Front government with having failed to provide basic amenities to the people and implement central welfare schemes.
Pulling up the state government for its "abject failure" in ensuring jobs for the people under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, Gandhi mocked the Communist parties: "I think communism works for the benefit of the poor. But your government has failed to reach money for welfare schemes to the people.
"Communism has ended in the rest of the world. Is this a new form of Communism in Bengal?" Gandhi asked at an election rally in support of Congress candidates in Malda district of north Bengal, around 350 km from Kolkata.
Citing statistics, he said though Malda district had 515,000 job cards, only four families have got work for 100 days.
Recalling his father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, the Congress leader said: "He used to comment that out of 100 paisa allocated for government schemes, only 10 paise reaches the people. Now the situation is worse."
Gunning for the LF for lack of development in the state, Gandhi said: "I used to feel Uttar Pradesh is backward. But after what I saw while coming by helicopter I feel Bengal is at par with Uttar Pradesh."
Pointing out that the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led government has been in power for over 32 years, Gandhi quipped: "Their way of thinking also seems to be buried 30 years in the past."
Rahul Gandhi kicked off his election tour of West Bengal with rallies in the tribal-dominated western districts - first Purulia and then Bankura - both of which are hotspots of Maoist activities. He later flew to the northern districts of Malda and Jalpaiguri for two more meetings. In each of the rallies he gave brief eight-10 minute speeches in hindi.
In Bankura, 210 km from Kolkata, canvassing for state Congress working president Subrata Mukherjee, Rahul Gandhi sent people into raptures by beginning his speech in Bengali: "Bankurar manusher joi hok (Three cheers for the people of Bankura)."
He said central funds on education, health and employment schemes were not reaching the state's poor. "This happens every year. We send money, half of it reaches you, the rest doesn't," he said.
In Purulia, 320 km from Kolkata, he said: "The education level here is low. There are no signs of health facilities. The Maoists are active. It seems your state government has forgotten you." "You should put pressure on the government. If the government does not work, change it," he said emphatically.
Criticising Left parties for withdrawing support to the Congress-led government on the India-US civilian nuclear deal last year, he said: "We told them we need the deal for the county's future... for fulfilling our huge needs for electricity in future. They said no."
Gandhi said: "They (the Left) talk of the past. They don't talk of the future. They are not interested in issues like future energy needs. They are talking of an India 70 years back."
Gandhi, clad in a white kurta-pyjama, hopped to the four districts in a helicopter and was given a rousing welcome by thousands of supporters of the Congress and its ally Trinamool Congress.
At each rally, he appealed to the people to choose the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that would fight for the poor. "We have fulfilled every promise we had made for uplift of the poor, backwards and the tribals." He also urged people to make Manmohan Singh the prime minister again.
Criticising the previous National Democratic Alliance government and its India Shining slogan of 2004, Gandhi said: "The NDA government worked for a chosen few. If you work for a chosen few, the country doesn't develop that fast."