The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Basu twins are Buddha headache

Calcutta, May 12: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, it seems, will have a Rs 1,000-crore swearing-in but before that he has to settle two prickly issues in ministry making.

Bhattacharjee has time till May 18 to decide on Asim Dasgupta, finance minister, and Subhas Chakraborty, transport minister.

After meetings earlier in the day of the CPM state leadership and of the Left Front, talks were under way tonight in Delhi, where Bhattacharjee arrived in the evening to attend tomorrow’s politburo session, within a small group to arrive at a consensus on Dasgupta and Chakraborty.

There is pressure from within the party to remove Dasgupta. If a decision has not been taken yet, it is because of Jyoti Basu who wants him to continue. Chakraborty has been an embarrassment to the government and the party. A common element in both cases is Basu, who has backed Chakraborty in the past.

While there has been speculation that Dasgupta might be shifted to education, the thinking on Chakraborty is, first, if he should continue in the ministry or be moved to the organisation and, second, if he is kept in the government, his portfolio should be changed.

In either case, the motive is to limit his potential for causing trouble.

The two problems would cause Bhattacharjee some headache in the run-up to the May 18 swearing-in, but the indication today that he would probably get to announce the Tata automobile project around the time he begins his next innings should provide the balm.

Tata Motors’ managing director Ravi Kant met Bhattacharjee today. After the talks, the chief minister said: “It’s final.”

Asked if that meant the Tata small car project would be located in Bengal, he hedged: “It’s almost final.”

Industries minister Nirupam Sen said Ratan Tata would meet Bhattacharjee next week. “He has written to the chief minister.”

Persuaded to speak to the media, Ravi Kant was noncommittal, but Sen said the project under discussion was the Tatas’ Rs 1 lakh car. “The company will take a call in next 10 days,” he added.

Investment in the project is estimated at Rs 1,000 crore ' not a bad way to start Bhattacharjee’s second five-year development journey, which starts on the same May 18 as he began the one in 2001.

Tata’s meeting with Bhattacharjee ' on May 18 or 19 ' will be confirmed after the industrialist returns from South Africa on Sunday.

Before the swearing-in, Left Front chairman Biman Bose will hold bipartite meetings with partners to discuss portfolio allocation.

The front will meet on May 17 to finalise and ratify the ministry. At today’s front meeting, it was unanimously decided that Bhattacharjee would be the leader of the front legislature party.

“The Left Front is a transparent umbrella and there will be no problems in allocation of ministries,” Bose said, but some allies were apprehensive that a stronger CPM would demand its ministerial pound of flesh at their cost.

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