In Raiganj’s election battleground, the setting up of a campus of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has become a poll plank. More so, because Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s constituency Rae Bareli has got one.
While Deepa Dasmunsi, the sitting MP and Congress candidate, is busy explaining to voters that the AIIMS campus did not materialise due to non-cooperation of the state government, her principal opponent, Trinamool Congress’s Pabitra Ranjan Dasmunsi, who happens to be the brother of her ailing husband Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, promises to open an AIIMS campus here with the help of Mamata Banerjee. BJP’s Neemu Bhowmik, a veteran actor, is also promising voters an AIIMS campus. CPM’s Mohammad Selim, on the other hand, terms the entire issue a farce and bluff. “They are bluffing people as the project was neither cleared by the Planning Commission nor Parliament,’’ Selim, a former MP and minister told The Indian Express.
The Raiganj campus of AIIMS was the brainchild of Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi, who lobbied with the Centre for this project in 1999 and 2004. The project, supposed to have been set up at Panishala village near the town, was cleared by the Union Cabinet in 2009 and two campuses for Rae Bareli and Raiganj were sanctioned at an initial cost of Rs 823 crore each. While the UP government gave 148 acres of land for the project free of cost, the Bengal government wanted the project to be shifted to Kalyani in Nadia district. The Central government and the state Congress objected to this. On June 7, 2013, Union Health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said in Kolkata that the Central government was ready to pay Rs 15 crore for land at Panishala, but the response from the sate government was lukewarm.
“It’s a shame that Rae Bareli started the project but we did not because of absolute non-cooperation from the state government. The CM said that she was against forcible acquisition of land, but the farmers of Panishala were ready to part with their land. It would have benefitted people of a large area, but Mamata played politics. I am telling voters that if they want justice they should reflect it on the day of polling,” Dasmunsi said during her campaign at Hematabad, Raiganj.
Last year a Congress team, led by Dasmunsi, organised a hunger strike in Kolkata demanding the AIIMS and ended fast only after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh requested her to do so. That Mamata has fielded her brother-in-law, nicknamed Satya, has further fuelled her anger against the CM. “The CM might have been successful in breaking the Dasmunsi family, but she will not be able to break the Congress fraternity at Raiganj. Satya never showed any interest in politics and now prodded by Mamata he is contesting against me. It is unfortunate,” Deepa said.
Incidentally, Deepa and Satya stay in the same house. Satya is unfazed. “My sister-in-law could not bring AIIMS here, but I will. Didi is not opposed to it but to forcible acquisition of land.”