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Can Mamata risk aligning with pro-Modi business lobbies

Last updated on: August 02, 2013 03:50 IST

Can Mamata risk aligning with pro-Modi business lobbies

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee who was in Mumbai to woo captains of the industry is faced with a unique challenge. With significant Muslim votes backing her, she can't be seen aligning with Narendra Modi but at the same time does not want to partner with the Congress. Renu Mittal reports

"I love federal front...I always favour this federal structure but am in favour of a stable government also...it's people's choice. I cannot say, I am not a political astrologer," said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in Mumbai after meeting industrialists including Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries.

At a time when New Delhi is debating the Lok Sabha election and probabilities of a non-Bharatiya Janata Party, non-Congress alliance that can rule after the next election, Mamata flew to Mumbai.

All eyes were on Mamata Banerjee who had a private meeting with Mukesh Ambani. If the walls had ears there were too many things one might have wanted to hear about their agenda.

A West Bengal government official privy to the meeting disclosed that Ambani told Banerjee, “the fact that you have come here within 48 hours of winning the panchayat polls says you mean business.” 

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Can Mamata risk aligning with pro-Modi business lobbies

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Reliance Industries has for long shown interest in West Bengal’s Haldia Petrochemicals project, planned during the Left rule in the state. Sources claim there are three bidders for the delayed project, which has been running behind schedule due to various issues.

If Ambani can get a sweetheart deal from Mamata, he will have an envious control over India's petrochemicals industries.

The meeting between an irrepressible Mamata and India’s most powerful businessman has kick-started many political speculations in New Delhi. 

Fresh from her heady victory in the panchayat elections in West Bengal, where the Trinamool Congress swept most of the panchayats using the clout of the ruling party to win the local bodies poll, Mamata Banerjee was in Mumbai to woo captains of the industry.

She wants to bring in investment to her state that is starved of industry, jobs and has been lagging behind in terms of growth and development.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Can Mamata risk aligning with pro-Modi business lobbies

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Despite the Tata Nano project exit from West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee’s visit did draw an enthusiastic response from India Inc. West Bengal is a virgin land and industrialists can harvest rich dividends depending on what terms Mamata offers them; land being the biggest problem in the state.

Her maiden visit had captains of the industry virtually queuing up to listen to her and see what was on offer. 

West Bengal has a significant Muslim population due to which she had decided to leave the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance and joined hands with the Congress in the state. It was the coming together of these two parties that finally ousted the Left front government in the state. 

But now, Mamata Banerjee is uncomfortable with the Congress and the NDA is doing everything possible, behind the scene, to woo her. Her assertion that even though she believes in the idea of federalism she wants to see a stable government in New Delhi is very important.

Obviously, a stable government can be provided only by the BJP or a Congress-led coalition. Mamata is fighting a fierce battle with Congress in her home state, so at the Centre she is looking to the BJP to provide a stable government. 

Mamata's Mumbai visit is important to see how she aligns herself with business lobbies which, normally, play a crucial role in making of the government in New Delhi. Many Mumbai-based industrialists are considered to be pro Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and almost all of them are fed-up of the UPA government.

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Image: Barricades outside the Singur factory
Photographs: Reuters

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Can Mamata risk aligning with pro-Modi business lobbies

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It is interesting to note that most of the big business houses have set up shop in industry-friendly Gujarat. Now with Modi leading the BJP in the 2014 elections, many corporates are lobbying for Modi, providing a helping hand by networking with Modi's potential political allies. 

Mamata Banerjee, who had been criticised by India Inc after the Tata Nano project was forced out of West Bengal, was accompanied by her Finance Minister Amit Mitra and Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien. 

For Mamta Banerjee it is a tightrope walk. With so many Muslim votes backing her, she can't align with Modi and at the same time does not want to partner with the Congress.

Any coming together with the BJP at this stage could frighten away the considerable Muslim population from her side which may work to the advantage of the Congress and the Left parties in the state.




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