What was a matter of pride in November 2004 has become an acute embarrassment for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in December 2007. The state government has failed to identify a 40-50 acre piece of land that it had promised to IT giant Wipro three years ago for a second software campus in Kolkata.
To compound the embarrassment, Wipro chairman Azim Premji is supposed to meet Bhattacharjee on December 13. Premji would be in Kolkata to attend the meeting of the central board of Reserve Bank of India.
While Wipro officials are not sure whether Premji will rake up the issue in his meeting with Bhattacharjee, they are sure that it would be a major embarrassment for the West Bengal chief minister. The reason: Bhattacharjee himself promised the 40-acre land on November 19, 2004, the day when the Wipro campus in Salt Lake was inaugurated.
Worse, Premji's visit comes close on the heels of Infosys human resource director T. V. Mohandas Pai's visit to Kolkata, where the issue of the state government's three-and-a-half-year-old promise for a 100-acre plot inevitably surfaced.
But while Infosys has remained an eluding dream, Wipro is a goal Bhattacharjee loves to believe that he has achieved. In May 2001, just after assuming the chief minister's office, he sanctioned 18 acres to the software giant in a week, calling it his "first priority".
Bhattacharjee spent the next few years heaping praise on Wipro and Premji on almost every industry platform, calling Premji a "visionary". On November 19, 2004, he pledged all help for the quick completion of the proposed centre. Premji, then the world's second richest man after Microsoft's Bill Gates, quickly reciprocated by describing Bhattacharjee as the "best chief minister in the country".
While the mutual admiration continued, Wipro officials toiled away for the promised land. State government and Wipro sources say that over a dozen letters have been written and numerous trips have been undertaken over the past three years.
In fact, Wipro was first shown land at Rajarhat where Hidco asked for Rs 2.16 crore per acre, which, most software majors including Infosys said, was prohibitive. Later that was brought down to Rs 1.5 crore per acre, which too, was way above the Rs 60-65 lakh/acre ceiling Wipro was ready to pay.