The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Brand Bachchan free for UP

Lucknow, Oct. 19: Megastar Amitabh Bachchan helped lift the pall of anxiety on Uttar Pradesh over last week’s mandir-masjid dispute by agreeing to become the state’s brand ambassador, free of cost.

And, the czars of the corporate world — many his friends, among them — promised to turn around its economy and make the state “India’s most investor- friendly state within two years”.

At the end of a marathon churning of minds during the day, captains of industry, including Anil Ambani, Adi Godrej and M.S. Banga who are part of the newly-created UP Development Council, concluded that development and faster development is the only cure to Uttar Pradesh’s ills.

“Each of us has full faith in UP’s potential and is committed to doing everything in our power to contribute to its social and economic development,” Bachchan said.

The Bollywood icon saw great potential in the tourism and entertainment industry. “It is ironic that while most Hindi-speaking people live here, the maximum revenue from the Hindi film industry goes to Maharashtra and the situation can be changed,” he said.

Ambani and Subroto Roy of Sahara India came up with promises, like extending the Reliance mobile phone network across the state and helping develop 50 modern colonies with an investment of Rs 21,000 crore, respectively.

Banga of Hindustan Lever said the way to boost Uttar Pradesh’s economy was by pushing agro-based industries.

“It’s only the beginning,” said Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, who heads the star-studded UP Development Council — that will report directly to the cabinet. “Even gods had to wait for nectar when samudramanthan (churning of the ocean) had started.”

As critics watched the committee’s first meeting in sceptical silence, chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav made it clear he would ensure that the council’s suggestions were not trapped in red tape.

He stood at the gate to receive the industrialists for a luncheon meeting before the conclave began. “When I took over, I told you that development and not Ayodhya was on top of my mind. You can now see I meant it,” Mulayam Singh said.

“We believe in doing and not talking and you’ll see the result shortly,” Amar Singh said at the end of the marathon 10-hour meeting.

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