Kolkata braces for Gujarat CM Narendra Modi

Business leaders compare his growth model with Mamata's,political rivals say it's a non-event.

Written by Subrata Nagchoudhury | Kolkata | Published: April 8, 2013 1:35 am

Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Kolkata,where he will address a special business session on Tuesday,has set business circles buzzing with comparisons between the development models in his Gujarat and Mamata Banerjee’s West Bengal. Political leaders barring those of the BJP have,on the other hand,been dismissing it as a non-event.

The address,“Modi’s Vision of a Vibrant Growth Model for India”,is significant in terms of both time and place. It comes when Modi is being projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. And it is being held in the state that lost out to Gujarat when Tata Motors shifted its Nano factory.

“It is expected that someone projected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate should visit an area where it does not have much of a political base,” economist Abhirup Sarkar said. Asked about comparisons between the “Modi model” and “Mamata model”,he said,“Yes,Modi’s growth model is market-driven,one in which it is believed that if there is growth there will be a trickle-down effect to the bottom,whereas Mamata promotes a model in which the poor can be addressed directly,not through the market.”

In 2008,shortly after the factory had reached Sanand after exiting Singur,Modi had rubbed it in with an open letter to then Left Front chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee,then in opposition. “The condition for the growth of Nano has not yet developed in West Bengal in view of its present work culture despite your serious efforts… People of West Bengal may think I have snatched Nano to Gujarat. But it is not so,” Modi had written.

While Gujarat’s model is often cited as investor-friendly,Bengal’s poor investment record has been highlighted in its own economic review. The review by the finance department,placed during the assembly current session,pegged investments during 2011-12 at Rs 400 crore,and proposals in MoUs and agreements at over Rs 1,00,000 crore. The figures sparked a debate within the Trinamool Congress,with industry minister Partha Chatterjee contesting Dr Amit Mitra’s assessment and claiming investments were actually over Rs 2,000 crore.

Rajiv Singh of the Indian Chamber of Commerce,who is one of the hosts for the event,explained why Modi has been invited: “People are keen to understand the development model Modi has adopted in his state. Some of those things have the potential to be replicated at a national level. This business meet has generated (interest) as Modi has grown in stature after his third successive win in the state and his induction in the BJP national executive.”

Asked what makes that model different from West Bengal’s,Singh said: “It is the attitude. Gujarat has cut down on the start-up days for industry to a minimum. Each state has to evolve its own model but there are intrinsic differences. Why should an investor wait for lengthy business conclaves and interactive sessions with government to make headway,as in Bengal? The simple method for an investor should be to be able to approach the government anytime directly and get things done,which the Modi administration provides.”

Co-host M K Jalan of the Merchants’ Chamber of Commerce said: “Our experience about Gujarat is that investors don’t have to run anywhere for clearances and sanctions. Those can be obtained through simple emails. Even an email to Chief Minister Modi is sure to get an answer within a maximum of three days. A similar (kind of) response is absent in Bengal,” says Jalan,of the Keventer Group.

Industry leaders preferred not to discuss the visit’s political implications.

What looks certain is that there will be no interaction between Modi and Mamata. “There is absolutely no chance of an interaction,” said Trinamool Congress general secretary Mukul Roy. Asked about the comparison between growth models,Roy said he was “busy in a party programme in North Bengal” and hung up.

Trimamool MP Sautaga Roy said,“I am not aware of either a Modi model or a Mamata model of development and industry. As far as our government is concerned,we have an announced policy of not helping private industry acquire land. It is a party policy.” He said the event would have no political impact. “It is a free country and anyone is free to travel to any place. Modi’s Hindutva message is not acceptable in a state where 27 per cent of the electorate are Muslim. It is a sensitive state; who will want to risk welcoming Modi?”

Saugata’s brother Tathagata Roy,a BJP leader,disagreed. “It will be sheer hypocrisy to pretend it’s a simple business meet with no political significance,” he said. “Thousands are keen to meet Modi,listen to him — most from the urban middle class. Industry finds in Modi a pragmatic politician with whom one can do business.”

Tapan Sikdar,former BJP MP,too ruled out a meeting between the former allies in the NDA: “Mamata Banerjee has moved too far with vote bank politics and would not be able to retract… The event will be an occasion for Bengal to take lessons from India’s number one industrialised state.”

For the CPM,former MP Md Selim said,“How am I to respond to a Modi business meet and a BJP party workers’ meet? He is coming for his party’s agenda. I am not interested in what political significance it has.”

For the Congress,state party president Pradip Bhattacharya said,“Kolkata is politically so conscious that it may not be a suitable ground for Narendra Modi to look for a footprint here. People of Bengal have not accepted the BJP brand of politics even though the founder of the Jan Sangh,Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee,was from Bengal.” About growth models,he said,“Neither Modi or Mamata can compare with late Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy. Besides,there is hardly anything called a Mamata model.”

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