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At Leads, business sings and bears it

Haldia, Jan. 15: Never mind big business has not yet danced to Mamata Banerjee’s tune. The chief minister has made some sing — and lip-sync — her tune.

The chief minister today converted Bengal Leads into Bengal Culture Leads by getting two industrialists — C.K. Dhanuka and Sanjiv Goenka — on the dais and persuading them to perform two songs.

The “light-hearted fun at the end of purposive speeches” — as Trinamul MP Derek ’Brien tweeted later — would have been the crowning glory had the inauguration showcased something more than the musical talent of two industrialists well known in Calcutta.

Goenka stood next to Dhanuka and tried to sync his lips with the two songs — Ae mere pyare watan and then Jodi tor daak shune keu na ashe… ekla chalo re (a favourite of Mamata and Mahatma Gandhi).

Mamata looked satisfied, probably because the programme took a turn towards her favourite subject: culture.

Ebar ekta gaan hok. Ke ke gaan shonabe? (Now let’s have a song. Who all will sing?)” asked Mamata.

Even before those sitting in the front row could fathom what was coming, the chief minister had announced the names of the high-value performers at the afternoon show.

“I know Dhanuka-saheb can… Culture is the most important asset of Bengal. Please come, Dhanuka saheb. Who else can sing the song that he will sing?” she said.

The chief minister then displayed her remarkable familiarity with matters business. “Sa-re-ga-ma-pa... Sanjiv, you also come. The entire music world belongs to you,” she added, playing on a theme that would make any copywriter envious. Saregama, an RP Sanjiv Goenka group company, holds the rights to most popular Indian songs and runs a chain of stores called Music World.

An industrialist said later: “If you are in the trade, you must know what is called lip sync.”

After the musical performance of Dhanuka — that lasted around three minutes — Mamata sang the national anthem and the curtains came down on the inaugural programme of Bengal Leads 2013.

The state government has organised the three-day programme at Haldia to promote investments in the state.

“She can get industrialists to sing but can she get investments?” asked a city-based industrialist after the “historic” programme ended.

She did not explain what prompted her to call it “historic”, but several industrialists The Telegraph spoke to did not find anything significant other than the sudden cultural twist.

Mamata spoke for around 45 minutes, rubbishing “wrong rumour” about lack of investments in Bengal and looking perturbed. She started off by listing the advantages of Gujarat over a Bengal with a Left past, trying to build a case on how unfair it is to compare the two.

But the moment Dhanuka started singing, she was her usual self, gently swinging to the song and looking around.

The only other moment when Mamata was close to her comfort zone was when she handed over land allotment letters to 12 companies, including automobile major Maruti Suzuki and chemical company BASF, in various industrial parks.

“The allotment letters were given at the programme at the chief minister’s instance,” said a commerce and industries department officer.

The chief minister likes handing over something or the other — ranging from cycles to girls or cheques to families of “martyrs” in political clashes. So, the officials in the commerce and industries department worked overtime to prepare the allotment letters.

In the impromptu question-and-answer session after her speech, few prickly questions were asked. But that did not mean Mamata did not have uncomfortable moments.

She called out to chiefs of public sector companies to speak up but drew a blank as none was present.

Sonjoy Chatterjee, the chairman of Goldman Sachs (India) Securities, was the only notable name from outside Bengal at the inaugural session. Most of the other occupants of the front row were familiar Calcutta faces.

Although the chief minister’s cabinet colleagues said she would elucidate in her speech how the government is trying to facilitate the growth of industry, Mamata preferred rhetoric over reason. “I am confident…. I am an optimist and I think we can conquer the world.”

The assertion drew loud applause.

“The problem is she believes that whatever she is saying is true and everyone will accept her side of the story without casting any doubt,” said the CEO of one of the biggest investors in Haldia.

Few asked her any difficult questions, probably because Mamata’s aversion to uncomfortable questions is common knowledge by now.

But ’Brien’s tweet suggested how proud Trinamul is of the whole show: “Two prominent industrialists break into song... Bangnam-style.”

One person, though, did not get a chance to perform. Subhendu Adhikari, the MP credited with “bringing” Bengal Leads to Haldia, did not get a chance to deliver his vote of thanks as Mamata quickly moved on to the Q & A session and the songs.