| ...Karat cringes'
Singapore, Aug. 24: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is confident the CPM stands by his reform agenda ' even on controversial issues such as private, including foreign, investment in new ports and airports.
Away from home, he knew his views on private investment in new ports and airports could raise questions within the party. Singapore-based investors and fund managers too confronted him with the question whether he had his party behind him ' in Bengal and Delhi.
Asked if his views on private investment in new ports and airports had his party’s approval, he said: “It (the party’s view) is what I say. I consciously said what I had said about airport privatisation yesterday.”
He sought to clarify, however, that he ' and his party ' wanted the modernisation of existing ports and airports to be carried out under a “public-private partnership”. But the private sector, domestic and foreign, can “build, run and manage greenfield projects, on a 100 per cent equity basis”.
That means he has no problem with a second airport in Calcutta coming up entirely in the private sector.
Even Singapore’s foreign minister, George Yeo, quizzed him on his “communist government”. The minister told him that his government had “reservations” about Bengal because of its Left rulers.
“We are staunch capitalists and you are communists. So how can we invest in your state'” he asked Bhattacharjee. But he had been hearing “good things” about the Bengal government and the chief minister. “I’d like to come and see things for myself,” he assured Bhattacharjee.
The chief minister sought to downplay reports about differences with the party, but added that the CPM had been debating some issues and trying to reach a “consensus”.
“All political parties in the world are debating new issues,” he added.
“Believe in Bengal,” he said and cited cases where it has shown the way in reforms. Bengal was the first state to get into a public-private partnership in housing.