Assailing West Bengal's Left Front (LF) government for "running a dictatorship", Congress president Sonia Gandhi Monday expressed concern at the Communist rulers' failure to "improve the lot of the minorities" and the poor.
In a stinging attack on the LF during an election meeting in this remote area of Murshidabad district, she described as a "matter of shame" the state government's inability to provide job cards to hundreds of thousands of poor people under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).
Referring to the violent incidents in Nandigram and Singur, she said: "These people (the Left) call themselves messiahs and sympathisers of the poor and working classes. We all know how peasants of Nandigram and Singur became victims of violence in their bid to protect their own land. Our Congress party activities had lathis (sticks) rained on them for trying to give a voice to the people."
Addressing the meeting for Minister for External Affairs Pranab Mukherjee, who is contesting from the district's Jangipur constituency, Sonia Gandhi charged the Left Front with running a dictatorship in the name of democracy.
Mamata Banerjee, chief of Trinamool Congress with which the Congress has a seat sharing arrangement in West Bengal for these Lok Sabha polls, sat alongside.
Murshidabad is the only Muslim majority district in the state. Sonia Gandhi gave an account of the welfare schemes launched by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre for the minorities, and pilloried the LF for "not doing much" in this regard.
"In West Bengal, what is the social and economic position of the minorities? It is a cause for grave concern. During the long years of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) rule, I have a feeling nothing much has been done for minorities," she said, during her 12-minute speech in Hindi.
She said despite the Centre sending thousands of crores for welfare schemes to the state, the Left Front rulers had only used the money for benefit of their party activists.
"Ask the state government why funds allocated by the centre for welfare schemes are not reaching the people. Had it being given to the people, ... and had this government's intention been good, then there would not have been so many poor people in the state, particularly in this area," she said.
"Instead of implementing the central schemes with honesty to benefit the people, they used it to benefit their leaders. Despite being in power for 32 years, they have failed to bring electricity to all the rural areas."
Referring to the Left parties's withdrawal of support to the UPA government on the India-US civilian nuclear deal, Sonia Gandhi said: "We had signed the deal only to bring electricity to your homes".
She said the peasants were not getting a remunerative price for paddy here, due to the apathy of the state government, while industrial activities had stopped in the last decade.
Expressing happiness at the alliance with Trinamool Congress, she said: "I am happy that Mamata is again with us," and appealed to the people to vote on polling day and not remain in their houses "out of fear".