The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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CM looks beyond Gucci

Calcutta, July 31: Investments would start flowing into Bengal from different directions, India and Italy, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today.

Replying to a no-confidence motion tabled by the Trinamul Congress in the Assembly, Bhattacharjee said he was not bothered about whether Gucci — the Italian leather giants — invested in the state. He was confident moneybags will come in from other places, at home and abroad.

“Please have some patience. I am very confident about my Mumbai trip,” the chief minister told the Assembly. He met the captains of Indian industry in the commercial capital in June.

Minutes later, he said his trip to Italy in the same month as the leader of an industry delegation had resulted in at least six agreements on Italian investment.

“We don’t care whether Gucci comes to Bengal. And, mind you, I was invited to visit the Gucci plant, I did not go on my own. There has been an agreement between the leather association in the state and its counterpart in Italy. Major leather companies in Italy will invest in Bengal. There have been agreements in power and food processing as well,” Bhattacharjee said while replying to the Trinamul motion.

On his return from Italy, the chief minister had said Gucci would send representatives to the leather complex at Bantala. But the the company denied any such plan and described Bhattacharjee’s trip to its plant as a “courtesy” visit.

The no-confidence motion, which had the Congress’ support, lost by division vote on the last day of the budget session.

Bhattacharjee, however, did not miss the opportunity to put across a few points. He said the government never claimed that Bengal’s economy was surging ahead on the fast track. But he pointed out that the state had its plus points and the 12th Finance Commission had acknowledged that.

“The Finance Commission has admitted that our GDP is 7.6 per cent against the national average of 4.4. We are ahead in agricultural growth and our industrial growth rate is better than the national average. In the past three years, Rs 2,000 crore has been invested in the state on an average. This year, we hope to cross the Rs 2,500-crore mark. We are also ahead in reducing poverty,” Bhattacharjee said.

With the nation facing a crunch, the chief minister told the Assembly, the state is trying to improve the situation by imposing taxes, adopting austerity measures and restructuring the state-run public sector units.

He borrowed from the bard to refute leader of Opposition Pankaj Banerjee’s allegations on the CPM’s “terror tactic” during the panchayat polls. “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,” Bhattacharjee said about Banerjee’s speech.

Referring to the charge that Opposition candidates could not file nominations because of the CPM’s “terror”, he dared the rivals to name a candidate who wanted to file a nomination but could not in Hooghly and Burdwan, where the maximum number of seats went uncontested. Bhattacharjee’s challenge brought howls of protest from Trinamul members like Kalyan Banerjee and Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay.

“Yes, there have been killings before, during and after the rural polls. But they were not one-sided and a majority of those who lost their lives belonged to the CPM and other Left Front constituents,” Bhattacharjee said.

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