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HindustanTimes Mon,22 Dec 2014

 India

Modi has a date with business, politics in Bengal
IANS
Kolkata, April 08, 2013
First Published: 19:12 IST(8/4/2013)
Last Updated: 10:54 IST(9/4/2013)

While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee engages with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the national capital seeking financial assistance for debt-stressed West Bengal on Tuesday, her Gujarat counterpart and BJP poster boy Narendra Modi will have a much-awaited interface with Bengal industry captains in Kolkata.

Bengal Inc is set to hear from Modi, who arrives on Monday night, the success story of his state when the flamboyant Gujarat chief minister addresses entrepreneurs.

The interaction between Modi and Bengal businessmen will take place amid concerns over Bengal's fading investment prospects after the Singur fiasco, where Modi's Gujarat gained at Bengal's cost, an irony which is hard to miss.

This would be the charismatic-as-well-as-controversial leader's first visit to the Trinamool Congress ruled state after being elevated to the Bharatiya Janata Party's parliamentary board.

Banerjee announced Monday she was leaving on a two-day trip to Delhi to discuss the state's financial matters with the prime minister and union Finance Minister P Chidambaram.

"She is shy of meeting Modi," quipped Leader of Opposition Surjya Kanta Mishra, of the Communist Party of India-Marxist.

Modi's visit, however, has already generated a controversy with the state BJP accusing the Banerjee administration of refusing to make the metropolis' landmark Netaji Indoor Stadium available for ithe party's high-profile leader's giant civic reception April 9.

The party has now settled for the much smaller "Mahajati Sadan" where the 62-year-old Modi will address BJP leaders and workers.

"When we asked for the Netaji Indoor in mid-March, we were told it is available. But at the last minute we were informed that it has been booked by a business group," state BJP secretary Ritesh Tewari told IANS.

Earlier in the day, Modi, widely touted as the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, will speak at a special session of businessmen on how he transformed Gujarat into one of the fastest growing states in India.

The special session will be organised jointly by MCC Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Indian Chamber of Commerce and Bharat Chamber of Commerce at a plush five-star hotel of the city.

Experts say the industry-hungry state's economic prospects took a major hit after the turn of events in Hooghly district's Singur, where a sustained and intense agitation by then opposition Trinamool Congress led by Banerjee forced Tata Motors to relocate its proposed small car plant to Gujarat's Sanand in 2008.

Despite the Banerjee government's several attempts to attract big ticket investments, entrepreneurs have so far given the state a cold shoulder.

Modi has been touring several states of late, meeting business captains and party activists, in an apparent bid to position himself for the top political role ahead of next year's general elections.

However, his visit to the eastern metropolis assumes significance in view of constant comparisons being made over the past few months between the investment climate in Gujarat and Mamata's Bengal, a parallel which the Bengal leader never liked.

Already speculation is rife that a number of Bengal business honchos are likely to give the Modi show a miss, as they are loathe to annoy Banerjee by being seen with the Gujarat strongman. While some industrialists have cited advance travel plans, some other big shots are taking shelter behind the oft-used excuse "major commitments".

It is also one of the first visits of Modi to a state where the BJP is a weak force. However, the BJP leadership is hoping that Modi's visit will give a boost to the party in the state.

In fact, last month, BJP chief Rajnath Singh said here his party was eyeing the number one opposition party's tag after the next assembly elections slated for 2016. Modi's tour has to be politically seen in that light.


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