KOCHI: Union Defence Minister A.K. Antony has warned the electorate against giving another term to the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government as it would mean facilitating Kerala going the ‘West Bengal way.’
At a news conference here on Thursday, Mr. Antony, who is on a whirlwind campaign tour across the State, claimed that 35 years of CPI(M) administration had turned West Bengal into one of the poorest States in the country. In Bengal, poverty was rampant, literacy was low and unemployment high. The minorities were most neglected. For instance, he said, Muslims who made up 27 per cent of the West Bengal population had only a two per cent share in government jobs.
“That is why thousands of Bengali youths take the trains to Kerala, which is some 3,500 km away, to work as migrant labour,” Mr. Antony said. “I urge the Kerala electorate not to give the LDF another chance and thus cause the State’s total ruin.”
Mr. Antony, who claimed he was fully confident of a UDF victory, said the UDF stood for a ‘new Kerala’ and wanted the State to advance like other southern Indian States. “Kerala deserves to be No.1. When the entire nation is speeding ahead, Kerala should not be moving at the speed of bullock carts.”
He claimed that the CPI(M) was still following the old Communist development models which China, Vietnam and East European countries had dumped. “The CPI(M) still harps on its outdated slogans,” he said. “The party does not realise that the new generation no longer understands these old slogans.”
Mr. Antony claimed that the Centre had pumped unprecedented sums of money into projects in Kerala, but the State government was ‘ungrateful’ to the Centre. “The people will not forgive the LDF for this ingratitude,” he said. Only a Centre-friendly State government could woo more Central funds into the State, he contended.
Asked if he took over the UDF campaign leadership for fear of defeat of the front, Mr. Antony said Oommen Chandy and Ramesh Chennithala still led the campaign. “I am in the campaign forefront because, come election time, I am a cent-per-cent Congress man,” he said.