Setting up of AIIMS branch is a hot issue in Raigunge

Swelling fertiliser and fuel prices, snowballing inflation, increasing cost of essential commodities –while political parties across the country highlight big-ticket issues to impress voters, setting-up a branch of the Delhi-based All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is the hottest issue in Raigunge.

Raigunge is Congress’ choice for such a hospital, but the Trinamool Congress prefers to set up the institute at Nadia district in south Bengal.

Indeed, getting the branch of AIIMS at Raigunge is an issue closest to the heart of Congress candidate Deepa Dasmunshi at this North Dinajpur district town.

Should Deepa, the sitting MP, win on the promise of getting the super-specialty hospital and fail later, it could get contentious.

The Congress candidate said the Mamata Banerjee government in the state is dodging the issue and has not allotted the land for the project, something the previous Left government had agreed when her husband and former union minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi proposed it.

The West Bengal chief minister, on the other hand, prefers Kalyani in Nadia district for the project. Location of the hospital has become a bone of contention between the two women.

Mamata had never named Deepa and only hints at her incompetence as an MP in her tirades, but Deepa never shies away from criticising Mamata and is known as one of the chief minister’s vocal critics.

Serving as information and broadcasting minister in the first Manmohan Singh government, Priya Ranjan promised the branch of AIIMS in a massive 100-acre campus in Raigunge.

But the project went into cold storage when Priya Ranjan suffered a massive stroke and disappeared from active politics in October 2008.

Ironically, he was admitted to the AIIMS in Delhi and was kept there for a long time until his family decided to move him.

The project met a roadblock when the Trinamool Congress government made a blanket decision not to acquire land for its implementation. Aggrieved local Congress leaders blamed Mamata personally for the project’s failure to take off.

With a week to go for the elections here, the disappointment of not landing the AIIMS branch here is obvious.

“Mamata Banerjee has been playing politics with the hospital. People are ready to give their land but she has blocked the project and is trying to take it away,” said a local Congress leader.

The multi-specialty hospital has been taken as an important local issue by Deepa, though Congress is not sure of getting it even if she manages to retain the seat.

The issue received further twist when Mamata revealed in a rally recently that the hospital could come up at Balurghat in neighbouring South Dinajpur, or even at Siliguri.

But despite such promises, the Trinamool Congress considers AIIMS branch as a non-issue in Raigunge and believes it could win merely on the basis of the development Mamata has ushered in West Bengal.

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