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At last, it's party time for Mamata Banerjee (West Bengal Newsletter)

IANS  |  Kolkata 

For over a year, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been at the receiving end by the opposition, a section of civil society and the media. She, on her part, aided with unbecoming comments and deeds, and the spats appeared unending.

This past week has been different.

A resounding ruling Trinamool Congress victory in the rural polls, followed by a star-studded industry summit in the country's commercial capital Mumbai seemed to have come as a windfall for the West Bengal chief minister, whose government appeared to be hitting one roadblock after another.

The rural polls -- notwithstanding violence and bloodshed -- has provided Banerjee a tighter grip on all layers of the political administration, from the state secretariat Writers Buildings to the gram panchayats scattered across the state's rural landscape.

Days after her panchayat poll triumph, Banerjee was seen smiling ear to ear with the country's leading industrial magnate Mukesh Ambani by her side at the World Trade Centre, the venue of business summit "Bengal Beckons", organised by the state government.

The absence of the top industry honchos in the Banerjee government's earlier business tete-a-tete at Haldia in January had become a major talking point.

This time, her regime seems to have more than made up for that in terms of star value.

The summit saw, apart from Ambani, the TCS big shot N. Chandrasekharan, Kotak-Mahindra Bank's Uday Kotak, Chanda Kochar of ICICI Bank, Venugopal Dhoot of Videocon, ITC chief Yogi Deveshwar, Adi Godrej, and a host of leading business figures.

Interestingly, rather than state government officials, Bengal's frontline businessmen like Sanjiv Goenka, Harsh Neotia and Sanjay Budhia were seen welcoming industrials from other states to the venue.

It was reported that Banerjee welcomed the industrialists at the closed-door summit with Tagore's words "Eso, Eso amar Ghare eso, amar ghare" (Come to my place) and asked them to have faith in her government. "I have come to Mumbai, because it is like a home to me. In the same way, you also think of Bengal as your home".

Banerjee referred to the drastic reduction in the loss of man-days in Bengal during her rule, and mentioned the land bank, land use map set up by her government.

However, she reiterated her government's no-SEZ and hands off policy on land acquisition for industrials projects, that stresses on the businessman going for direct purchase of land - a stand chambers of commerce and economists have described as a serious impediment to industrialisation.

What was noteworthy was that with the sole exception of Adi Godrej, none of the industrialists made any reference to these policies.

Mukesh Ambani was all sugar and honey: "You have come to the commercial commercial capital within 48 hours of your massive victory in the panchayat polls. That means, you mean business," he said. Later in the evening, Banerjee had a 90-minute one-on-one with Ambani.

And did Banerjee's vigorous wooing of industrialists leave an impact? The World Trade Centre authorities sought land for setting up another such facility in Kolkata, and in principle, the Bengal government has agreed to give five acres.

According to a state government official, Ambani has evinced interest in rolling out four G telecom services in Bengal, besides buying shares of Haldia Petrochemicals.

Banerjee had faced much flak and ridicule for virtually taking a public roll call of industrialists and diplomats and making them stand up to answer her posers in the first edition of Bengal Leads in 2012 in Kolkata.

At the Haldia summit, she made leading industrialists sing in chorus, drawing ridicule.

Now wiser, Banerjee kept her cool and measured her words. There were reasoned arguments and no histrionics.

Asked later about the impact of the summit, the chief minister quipped: "Oh! It worked like vitamin. Like A to Z vitamin!"

(Sirshendu Panth can be contacted at

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First Published: Sat, August 03 2013. 13:24 IST