CHIEF MINISTER Mamata Banerjee on Friday urged industry leaders to “not waste time” waiting for election results as her government would be voted back to power, and asked them to invest in West Bengal where the government would “work as their employee”.
Speaking at the inaugural session of the Bengal Global Business Summit in Kolkata, Mamata said, “Elections will continue and our government will continue. Don’t worry about that. There’s no time to waste.”
Compliments were showered on her government from captains of industry as well as ministers of the Narendra Modi government. Lauding her government, Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani said, “As an investor, I stand here to say that West Bengal is among the top of the list in terms of doing business and recommend the state as an ideal investment destination.”
Mamata began the session by highlighting West Bengal’s achievements. “Bengal is performing. The state is ahead on every count, especially development parameters… There is big scope and hope in Bengal. There is cheap labour, sufficient power, skilled manpower. We have a land bank, suitable policies on textile, industry,” she said, calling upon industrialists to set up their businesses and asserting that the government would “work as their employee”.
Slamming her detractors, she said, “Some people are saying that there has been no investment. It is not true. Projects worth Rs 94,000 crore investment have already taken off. Some of the projects we had signed have already started.” Availability of land won’t be a problem in Bengal as the state government has a land policy and a land bank, the CM said.
Promising investment and a paradigm shift towards ease of doing business, Mamata added, “Bengal is a peaceful state where we all work together. There is no communal incident or tension. Somebody might criticise it politically. We don’t allow all this.”
Her comments came against the backdrop of the violence that broke out at Kaliachak in Malda, which had prompted the Union Home ministry to seek a report from the state government.
The CM, who has continually criticised the Modi government for ‘weakening the federal structure’ and alleged that funds for centrally sponsored schemes were being held back, said that the strength of India was its “federal structure”. “Unity and diversity is the origin of our country and it is based on the idea that if the state develops, so does the Centre, and vice versa,” she added.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, on his part, promise that “all issues with West Bengal will be dealt with expeditiously”.
Criticising the three-decade Left rule, he said, “If you are not in a position to attract investment, what happens is what happened in West Bengal for three and a half decades… where there were no jobs… and there were only shadow political slogans to lean on… It is in this context that West Bengal lost its glory, which could be restored, and I assure you that the Centre will give all its support to the state’s endeavour to attract investments”.
The Union minister only smiled in response to state Finance Minister Amit Mitra’s question on restructuring of the massive debt that the state owes to the Centre as an inheritance of previous governments.
Referring to the adverse global economic situation, Jaitley said that states in eastern India would need to take the lead as far as economic growth was concerned. “Given the structure of India’s federal polity, it is imperative that the states grow as well. Despite political differences, strong states mean a stronger India. West Bengal contributes nearly 6 to 7 per cent of the national GDP. Given the fact that growth of eastern states was lower than those of the western states, the additional growth will have to come from the former,” he said.
Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu praised the state’s performance, adding that it “had a huge capacity to grow”. Union Power Minister Piyush Goyal said he had seen the “state emerge as an investment hub in recent years” and that it had “come back in the map of investment”.
The BJP had recently launched a series of radio jingles, countering the state government’s claim that it had received investment worth Rs 2.43 lakh crore. According to BJP national secretary and Bengal co-observer Sidharth Nath Singh, the state has received investment of only Rs 6,871 crore in the past five years.