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Haldia salve for state

Calcutta, March 20: Nursing the wounds of Nandigram, the Bengal government has found some cause for solace in neighbouring Haldia.

The state has managed to retain virtual control over Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL) with its nominee winning a fresh three-year term at the helm of the second largest company in Bengal.

Staving off strong opposition from The Chatterjee Group (TCG), Swapan Bhowmik was re-appointed the managing director of HPL at a board meeting in Delhi.

The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation managing director, Debasish Som, has also got a berth on the HPL board. Som replaced Gopal Krishna, the erstwhile managing director of the corporation.

The meeting took place against the backdrop of a tussle between TCG and the Bengal government in Calcutta High Court for control of the company.

TCG had yesterday moved an application seeking to stall the board meeting. The court felt that the board should be given a chance to carry on its business but added a rider that all decisions would be subject to the final verdict in the case.

The candidature of Bhowmik was being supported by the Bengal government, which has four members on the board. TCG also has the same number of board members.

Bhowmik’s current two-year tenure as managing director is coming to an end on March 31. Last time, his elevation to managing director from chief executive officer (CEO) was unanimous.

Bhowmik’s relations with TCG are said to have come under strain over the allotment of HPL shares to Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

Today, TCG members led by Purnendu Chatterjee opposed Bhowmik’s appointment but did not find support from any other director, including five nominees of financial institutions.

Bhowmik was eventually chosen without the matter being put to vote. At the two-hour meeting, the TCG members said they should have the right to nominate the managing director.

They cited an agreement with the Bengal government, according to which the chairman’s post goes to the state and that of the managing director to TCG.

The arrangement was part of a pact that said Chatterjee would have management control over HPL. However, the Bengal government had revoked that deal.

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