Rebutting efforts to make her come around on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday reiterated her opposition "no matter who says what".
Banerjee was reacting to statements earlier in the day by chief economic adviser Kaushik Basu, who expressed hope that Banerjee would come around.
Speaking at a chamber of commerce meeting in Kolkata, Basu said, "If it (FDI in retail) can be explained to them, I feel that she would understand it is actually in the interest of the people of West Bengal, the farmers of West Bengal, consumers of the West Bengal."Banerjee, in her turn, said, "We do not want entry of multi-brand FDI in retail. We will not accept it and this is our government's policy."
A cabinet decision in November to allow FDI up to 51% in multi-brand retail and 100% in single-brand retail was stalled following stiff resistance from the UPA's key ally Trinamool Congress and some opposition parties. Banerjee had argued then that multinationals would finish off farmers and small traders.
Basu's forceful advocacy is a clear indication that PM Manmohan Singh, who recently took charge of the finance ministry, is trying to push policy reforms on FDI in the retail segment to rev up the economy.
Taking a dig at Banerjee, Basu said, "When it comes to some of the intricate economic policy making, it is easy to fall in the trap of thinking that I know what is best."
Basu argued that after multinational companies start large-scale operations in retail, it would eventually benefit farmers.
"If the total demand for the farmers' product goes up, they will be in a better position to ask for more," he said.
He also cited China's example to prove that farmers had benefited after the communist country had opened up.
A few weeks ago, Union commerce minister Anand Sharma had also signaled a push for opening up the multi-brand retail market.