Mamata Banerjee, Anand Sharma, Akhilesh Yadav
New Delhi, Sept. 25: A global investment summit is being shifted from Calcutta to Agra, becoming the first casualty after Mamata Banerjee pulled her party out of the UPA government.
The Partnership Summit, one of the most prestigious events in the annual business calendar in the country, is held jointly by the Union commerce ministry and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Union commerce minister Anand Sharma has written to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, requesting him to host the summit, sources told The Telegraph.
In November last year, at the reopening of a cotton mill in Howrah’s Dasnagar, minister Sharma had said in the presence of chief minister Mamata Banerjee: “A global partnership summit of investors and a local partnership summit of domestic investors will take place in Calcutta in 2013.”
The sources said today that Sharma’s letter had sought approval from Akhilesh for hosting the event in Agra from January 27 to 29.
The last Partnership Summit was hosted in Hyderabad, where 1,500 delegates from 42 countries attended and several memoranda of understanding were signed. Andhra Pradesh attracted more than three dozen big projects at one go.
Calcutta was shortlisted as the next destination for the summit as the Centre wanted to help Bengal after the exit of the Left.
The summit was held in Calcutta several times till 2006. At the 2005 edition in Calcutta, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had heaped praise on then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and quoted Karl Marx, “when ideas capture the minds of men, they become a material force in society”.
“If today there is a meeting of minds between Delhi and Kolkata, it is because the ideas that I and Buddhadebji represent have captured the minds of the people of India,” Singh had said then.
Much has changed since then.
Off the record, an official in Delhi did not hold back on the reason for shifting the venue from Calcutta to Agra, though the alternative is not exactly an irresistible magnet for investments.
A commerce ministry official said: “How can we send top global corporate leaders to a state where the system is not supportive of foreign investment? After all, the world would have known what is the environment in Bengal despite the change of regime.”
The official also cited the Bengal chief minister’s strident opposition to foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and what he referred to as an attempt to “destabilise” the Centre.
What the official did not say is that Uttar Pradesh is not much different. The ruling Samajwadi Party, too, has opposed the FDI decision and enforced a recent shutdown against this policy. The only difference is that Trinamul was in the government and the Samajwadi Party, backing it from outside, hasn’t withdrawn its support so far.
But the perception at the Centre is that the investment climate in Uttar Pradesh is far better than that in Bengal, whose government has persisted with a mindset that attained critical mass during the Singur agitation.
The commerce minister was not available for a comment. But another minister said: “Mamata’s paribartan (change) was after all not meant to compete with the Left in keeping Bengal backward. She has been completely unreasonable in dealing with the Centre on FDI and less than honest in her anti-Congress rhetoric, describing this government as anti-people. We cannot walk the extra mile to humour her when she is saying FDI-gate is to suppress coal-gate.”
Officially, none of those associated with the summit is expected to link the choice of the venue to the recent political developments. Agra’s pull as a tourist destination and its proximity to Delhi are expected to be cited as clinchers in the face of lobbying by other states.
If the event helps Uttar Pradesh attract investments, the UPA will count it as an added bonus to keep Akhilesh in good humour.