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Mamata woos Muslims for panchayat polls, announces more sops

April 09, 2012 21:38 IST

With an eye on next year's panchayat polls, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday showered more sops on the Muslim community, including new loan schemes and an employment bank.

The announcement comes days after she declared a monthly honorarium and housing subsidy for imams in the state.

Outlining schemes undertaken for uplift of Muslims in the state, she said her government had increased allocation for the minorities department by 73 per cent in the state budget for the current financial year.

"Our aim is to see that our brothers and sisters pursue their studies properly, receive training and get jobs. And those who cannot get jobs can start their own businesses by taking loans from the government," Banerjee told a meeting organised by the West Bengal Minority Development and Finance Corporation at Barasat in North 24-Paraganas district.

Noting that a "comprehensive employment bank" would be set up to cater to the growing employment needs of the youths belonging to the minority community, she said it would have its network in every district where there would be a system to enroll names.

The chief minister said 'bhavans' will be set up in the districts from where they would get all the assistance required. She also announced loans and stipends for 75,000 students.

The panchayat polls, due in May next year, would be regarded as the first trial of strength for the party which took office last year.

The Trinamool Congress has hinted that the panchayat election could be advanced to this winter.

She also took credit for bestowing the status of the second official language on Urdu in areas where there was concentration of more than ten per cent people speaking the language.

Mamata, who had earlier announced Nija Bhoomi, Nija Griha Scheme under which the state will provide three kotahs of land and money to build a house to the beneficiary, said that within three years there would be no 'homeless' person in West Bengal.

She also announced that Rs 2 per kg rice would be given for another six months from now on to victims of Cyclone Alia.

She had announced last Tuesday a package for the imams of the state, which include a monthly honorarium of Rs 2,500, a housing scheme and stipends for their children.

Muslims comprise 26 per cent of the electorate of the state.

The shifting of minority votes from the Left Front in favour of the Trinamool Congress is one of the reasons for the electoral reverses suffered by the Left parties in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal as well as in the state assembly polls, which saw the Trinamool Congress score a landslide victory.

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