Under sustained pressure from his Left Front allies and from within the CPI(M), chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has decided to go slow in inviting FDI in Bengal.
After a three-hour-long meeting on Thursday, in which both Bhattacharjee and senior Front leaders repeatedly lost temper, the chief minister ultimately announced that his government would not make any final agreement with the Indonesian Salim Group till the Left Front arrived at a consensus on its proposed projects.
“There will be a general agreement and not any final agreement with the Salim Group,” CPI(M) state secretary Biman Bose later said. “There might also be changes in the agreement later and the investor will have to accept them. They can’t decide everything,” he said. The already hyped visit of Salim Group chief Anthony Salim to Kolkata on July 31, as a result, would turn out to be a lame duck affair, CPI(M) leaders admitted in private. Only on Friday morning invitations had been sent to media houses and dignitaries to attend the “landmark” agreement to be signed between the Left Front government and the Salim Group at one of the five star hotels in Kolkata.
The Salim Group was initially expected to invest in an expressway, two bridges, a chain of satellite townships, a health city, a special economic zone and a chemical hub. A section of Left Front constituents and CPI(M) insiders had been opposed to the idea on the ground that prime agricultural land would be lost.
Bhattacharjee told the Front leaders that he would not finalise any deal with the Salim Group on July 31. “Let them submit the detailed project reports first. I will discuss them with you and put your suggestions to the investor. If you feel so, the agreement will have to change,” he said.