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Difference in CPI(M) over Reliance entry in Bengal

Sources say that Basu strongly opposes the entry of big business houses into retail, reports Aloke Banerjee.

business Updated: Apr 20, 2007 20:25 IST

Sharp differences have cropped up in the CPI (M) over whether to allow entry of Reliance Industries Ltd in the agri-retail business in Bengal.

The state secretariat meeting of the party attended by Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee among others failed to take a decision on the issue on Friday and referred the matter to the CPI (M)’s state committee.

According to sources, Basu strongly opposed the idea of allowing entry of big business houses in the retail sector in agricultural products saying this would result in job loss for a large number of people associated with the traditional markets all over the state.

Significantly, the chief minister, who was initially interested in allowing RIL to open retail chains in the state, agreed with Basu saying that the government could not afford to take any step that might affect small business and render a large number of people jobless.

Central committee members Benoy Konar and Shyamal Chakraborty, however, differed arguing that entry of RIL would in fact help the farmers. Konar claimed the farmers, who hardly get proper price of their products from the existing markets, would welcome entry of RIL as this would ensure them a stable price for their products.

“It is a complex issue. We could not come to a decision. We discussed it in our politburo and central committee. We will discuss it again in our state committee,” Basu said after the meeting. “We are opposed to the way it is happening. There are lakhs of small businessmen. We must ensure that they do not lose their work,” he said.

The Forward Bloc, which holds the agriculture marketing department, meanwhile stuck to its earlier stand and said that it would not give license to the RIL to enter into the agri-retail business. The party has already informed the chief minister of its decision.

“We will not allow monopoly hoses in the retail business in agriculture. We will not give them (RIL) license. We can’t compromise on our ideological stand,” Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh said after the party’s secretariat meeting.

The CPI, too, in its state secretariat meting during the day opposed entry of big business in the retail sector and sought the detailed project report submitted by RIL to the state government.

“We are opposed to FDI in the retail sector. RIL is not much different from FDI in the sense that it is a monopoly house. There will be huge job-losses if they enter the agri-market. We will seek their DPR to find out what they actually want to do,” CPI state secretary Manu Majumdar said.

Left to continue support to UPA: Despite the CPI and the RSP’s recent public statement that it was time the Left parties withdrew support from the UPA government, Jyoti Basu said the CPI(M) would not take such a step as this would help BJP stage a comeback.

“Despite differences on fundamental issues we are not thinking of withdrawing support to the UPA government for the simple reason, the BJP would use the opportunity to stage a comeback, Basu said.

He said the CPI(M) would oppose the policies of the Centre both inside and outside the parliament but the party did not discuss the issue of withdrawing support.