West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee won't have FDI in multi-brand retail, but the US appears keen on the idea — and that too in Bengal.
On Monday, 72 hours after Trinamool Congress quit the UPA over the issue and Banerjee announced she would lead an anti-FDI stir outside Parliament on October 1, US ambassador Nancy Powell met Banerjee.
Neither was forthcoming about the details of the meeting, but speculation was rife that FDI in retail was the focal point of the discussion.
FDI had created a controversy during the visit of US secretary of state Hillary Clinton in May.
Before her meeting with Banerjee, Clinton had repeatedly said she would lobby for reforms in India’s retail sector with the Bengal chief minister.
After her visit, a US press communiqué admitted that FDI was indeed discussed at the meeting.
The May 8 US statement said, “Touching on issues ranging from increasing US investment in West Bengal, including the retail sector, US-India relations, regional affairs, and strong people-to-people connections, the secretary reaffirmed to the chief minister the US desire to work with India and Bengal to deepen and broaden our partnership.”
But the state government — both chief minister and state finance minister Amit Mitra — had denied any discussion on the matter. Mitra had even written to the consulate, stating his objections.
This time, the US consulate's public relations machinery maintained complete silence over Powell's visit, calling it a “courtesy visit”. (with PTI inputs)