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HPL chief wants to quit

Calcutta, May 20: Tarun Das has offered to step down as the chairman of Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd (HPL).

At a board meeting held in Calcutta today, Das informed the members about his desire to resign before sending formal letters to Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and industry minister Partha Chatterjee.

Industry secretary Dipankar Mukhopadhyay confirmed the development.

“Yes, he has sent a letter. He also informed the board expressing his desire to step down. Das said he felt the new government should have the discretion to appoint a new chairman if it wishes so,” Mukhopadhyay told The Telegraph.

Das could not be contacted for comment.

The industry secretary said he would place the letter before Partha Chatterjee.

If the resignation is accepted, it will mark the end of an era in one of the most high-profile industrial ventures of Bengal.

Former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had requested Das to become the chairman of HPL, which in its first decade of operation had been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

It was widely believed that former finance minister Asim Dasgupta, with the concurrence of Jyoti Basu, had pushed for the chairmanship of Das.

After Bhattacharjee became chief minister in 2000, he started searching for a new man at the helm of HPL. All the three promoters of HPL then — West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation, the Tata group and The Chatterjee Group (TCG) — agreed on Das, then director-general of the Confederation of Indian Industry, for his experience and connections in the corporate world and in Delhi.

Das was approached in August 2001. He initially hesitated because he had no experience in petrochemicals and lived in Delhi while HPL was based in Calcutta. However, Das finally took charge in October 2001. Das succeeded Tapan Mitra.

The primary reason for Das offering to step down is because he was coaxed by the Left Front government, particularly Bhattacharjee, to take charge.

His stint at the top was far from smooth. But he managed to keep the two warring promoters — TCG and the Left government — together, and helped the company to turn around in the initial phase.

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