A poor turnout from India Inc, who made no commitment to invest in Bengal, and a roll call that went haywire, Bengal Leads 2013 was a complete antithesis of Vibrant Gujarat. Yet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee laboured to counter the investment-friendly image nurtured by Narendra Modi.
Prepared for an obvious comparison with the just-concluded Vibrant Gujarat investors’ summit, Mamata Banerjee carefully ranted the disadvantages facing Bengal, vis-à-vis Gujarat right at the start of her speech.
“Those who are comparing this (Bengal Leads) with that (Vibrant Gujarat) should keep in mind geographical and other differences. They have 17 ports, we have two, that too suffering because of Centre’s negligence. They do not have a population density like us. Also, there are no political obstructions. There is politics only during election. Above all, Gujarat is fortunate enough not to inherit 35 years of legacy (Left rule),” she said.
Banerjee spoke strongly against “a section of the media” comparing Bengal and Gujarat and told the gathering of local industrialists (as industry captains from outside Bengal gave the summit a miss) not to take the negative propaganda seriously.In a bid to prove her point, Banerjee started listing out big investment proposals that the state had bagged. In her enthusiasm, she said that Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) was setting up the world’s second largest steel plant in Durgapur.
Then started the roll call as the Chief Minister called out for SAIL chairman, C S Verma. Verma, however, was not present and a member of the corporate communications department pointed out that a 0.5 million tonne iron nugget project was being set up in joint venture with Kobe Steel.
Not deterring from her point of announcing big projects, Banerjee wanted to showcase proposed power projects by NTPC, but it turned out that there was no representative from the public sector to corroborate her point, as she called out for one. She even addressed ITC executive director, Kurush Grant, as chairman, Y C Deveshwar.
The list of Bengal’s “big” projects, however, did not include JSW Steel’s proposed 10 million tonne steel project at Salboni in West Medinipur. At Rs 35,000 crore, it happens to be Bengal’s single largest investment, though. Jindal, who was present at Bengal Leads 2012, was not there on Tuesday.
The state government was supposed to unveil the industrial policy at the summit, but it turned out that there were some ‘final touches’ that were required.
Banerjee reiterated her land policy and said that it was the best option for the industry to go for direct purchase. In the past year and a half, industry representatives have complained enough about the policy, which is seen as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to investment.Twelve companies, from the SME sector, were however, handed over land allotment letters. The inauguration ceremony finally closed with Banerjee demanding a song from C K Dhanuka, promoter, Aspet India and CESC vice chairman, Sanjiv Goenka. Dhanuka obliged while Goenka was seen lip syncing.