New Delhi, Sept. 26: Union commerce minister Anand Sharma today said the Partnership Summit was being shifted from Calcutta because “we did not want to end up in a situation where the chief minister is leading a demonstration against global investors”.
“We were keen to help Bengal. But given the hostile atmosphere and strident opposition to foreign investments, we couldn’t have sent global investors to Calcutta to face protests. We were compelled,” the minister said today, contesting suggestions that political vendetta was behind the shift of the venue.
The strong response came within hours of Sharma speaking to Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, to whom the minister had already written about hosting in Agra the January summit originally scheduled in Calcutta.
Sharma told The Telegraph: “Akhilesh was thankful to the Centre for hosting the investors’ summit in his state. He assured us all possible help.”
Asked about the opposition of Akhilesh’s Samajwadi Party, like the Trinamul Congress, to FDI in multi-brand retail, the minister said: “I don’t think Mulayam Singh is opposed to foreign investments per se. The atmosphere in Uttar Pradesh is not hostile to industry and investment. Akhilesh was very happy to host the event.”
The Congress avoided comment on the change of venue.
In Calcutta, chief minister Mamata Banerjee sought to play down the shift by saying the state was never formally informed that the city would host the summit, although she termed the action “vindictive”.
“We did not get any formal request from the Centre (on selection of Calcutta as the venue of the meeting). I don’t know when Calcutta was selected, when Calcutta was dropped. This is being done out of a vindictive attitude. We have not received any letter,” Mamata said in response to a question.
In the interview with CNN-IBN, Mamata referred to the summit shift and asked: “I am not in the hands of Anand Sharma. My politics is because of public. Who is Anand Sharma? I don’t care him. I don’t bother him.”
Bengal industries minister Partha Chatterjee said he remembered Sharma having promised Mamata that the event would be held in Calcutta.
“As the minister of commerce, Anand Sharma may have changed the venue which is well within his right. But I also remember he promised chief minister Mamata Banerjee in my presence that the event would take place in Calcutta as part of the India government’s ‘Look East’ policy. I do not know what has transpired now. People of this state will not appreciate this move,” Chatterjee said on the sidelines of Haldia Petrochemicals’ annual general meeting.