Kolkata: The Congress on Sunday demanded immediate withdrawal of the recent West Bengal government order asking state-sponsored and aided libraries to keep select newspapers and termed the move as ‘shocking’ and ‘most undemocratic’.

"The content of the circular identifying specific newspapers with the direction of their use in all libraries (state-sponsored and aided) across the state is most partial and undemocratic," state Congress chief Pradip Bhattacharjee said in a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

"In our constitutional and democratic political order, such partiality towards select newspapers and the directive that no other newspapers can be kept in the libraries is shocking," Bhattacharjee, who is also a party MP and president of the state INTUC, said.

He said there was no such precedence of this type of "blatant attempt to institutionalise a system of patronage at the cost of exchequer".

The Congress, he said, was committed to democracy and rule of law and "as such we cannot condone any move or government circulars that attempt to run counter to these ideals."

He noted that the move and the justification offered by the government had been "soundly and comprehensively criticised" by all sections of the civil society, media and political parties.

The PCC chief also urged the Chief Minister to withdraw another reported directive for discontinuation of government advertisements in publications published at the rural, block and district levels. "This would be most detrimental to the growth of these small but vital publications," he alleged.

Bhattacharjee appealed to Banerjee to consider immediate withdrawal of the two circulars, saying it would not lower the prestige of the government, but would rather save the situation from deteriorating any further.

In the face of criticism from Congress, Left parties and the intelligentsia which described the decision as "undemocratic, undesirable and worse than censorship", the government had on Thursday changed the order to include more newspapers.

Defending the government order, the chief minister said recently that it had been done to promote small newspapers and characterised the criticism as a "systematic, unfair and dirty game being played by a mischievous section".