Call the Left's bluff, says Aziz Premji
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Call the Left's bluff, says Aziz Premji

Wipro chief describes West Bengal Govt as "progressive" and says it is time for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call the Left's bluff.

india Updated: Aug 11, 2007 15:05 IST

It is time for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call the Left's bluff, Wipro chief Azim Premji says, while describing the Left-ruled West Bengal government as "progressive".

Taking part in a debate in New Delhi on Friday evening, Premji responded to a comment that the Left would continue to influence the coalition government.

"It is a mixed bag," Premji said. "Except for recent jerks in West Bengal, the Left government there has been extremely progressive. One should not be carried away by some articulate people. If I were the prime minister, I would call the Left's bluff."

At the debate on 'Next 60 years: India among the largest global economies - Threats and Opportunities', leading members of India Inc called for a revitalization of agriculture to boost the country's economy.

Setting the ball rolling, Raghav Bahl, managing director of CNBC TV18, also the moderator, asked, "What can stop India from being an iconic economy?"

In response, speakers including Mukesh Ambani of Reliance, Sunil Mittal of the Bharti Group and Premji said there was a need to trim the role of the government and encourage private sector role in agriculture, which they said was facing a crisis.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath quipped, "The three say they don't want government, so you can imagine how lonely I feel."

Admitting that the government was "weak in implementing many developmental programmes", the minister said, "But we are building up a machinery to ensure that there is proper implementation."

Kamal Nath said with India being a democracy, any forward movement would be slow since it has to be done through consensus and consensus takes time to evolve.

India Inc felt agriculture was the most "worrisome sector".

Mittal, chairman and managing director of Bharti Group, said, "Investments and technology in agriculture are very weak. This is because infrastructure is very weak in rural areas and it needs to be fixed."

Ambani, who has opened agriculture produce retail outlets amid protests from some groups, said: "There is a need to have a one India free market for goods and uniform service tax."

Another way to improve agriculture was "for corporates to win the trust of farmers, and today Reliance is employing young people in rural areas and has started 100 pilot projects in villages", said Ambani.

He added, "Political parties exist because of people, and in the next 20 years people would want to see performance, not just promises. If at all there is a u-turn in the existing policies, it would be unfortunate."

First Published: Aug 11, 2007 14:58 IST