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Consent set to bring CII back

Calcutta, Jan. 2: The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has chosen Calcutta as the venue of its national council meeting after a gap of over three years following an in-principle consent from the chief minister to attend.

Two factors are being seen as instrumental behind the choice for the January 17 meeting of the CII. One, Mamata Banerjee’s positive response means the chamber is on course to meet a key condition that a national council meeting will convene only in the presence of the chief minister of the host state.

Two, if the meeting goes off without a hitch, it could be the precursor to a big-ticket event in Calcutta next year to mark the 120th year of the CII’s birth in the eastern city.

If unforeseen circumstances or contingencies do not stand in the way of Mamata attending the national council meeting, her attendance will mark a turning point. The CII had to skip Calcutta at least twice earlier since Mamata assumed power, as the chief minister was either unavailable or unwilling to attend the meeting.

A potential irritant has also been addressed. Town Hall, where Mamata holds administrative reviews, has been chosen as the venue of the CII meeting. The chief minister avoids five-star hotels, which are usually chosen by business chambers for their meetings.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed. If the chief minister attends, it will be good for the image of Bengal,” a past president of the CII said. In the past, Mamata had skipped an event of a chamber and sent the then industries minister, Partha Chatterjee.

The CII national council meeting, attended by representatives from all four regions in the country, is a platform with coincidental significance for Bengal’s industrial roller-coaster ride.

The last such CII meeting was held in Calcutta on October 6, 2010 — when then chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee returned to the platform after a self-imposed exile that had followed the Singur fiasco.

The latest meeting also comes at a time Mamata has been devoting attention to industry, the biggest sign of which has been the appointment of Amit Mitra, a former Ficci chief, as industries minister.

The CII holds national council meetings in all the four regions of the country. This time, at least 80 business representatives, including CII president and Infosys executive chairman Kris Gopalakrishnan, are expected to attend the event.

The CII was founded in 1895 when five engineering firms, all members of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, joined hands to form the Engineering and Iron Trades Association (EITA) in Calcutta. The EITA eventually became the CII.

The final decision on the venue of the event to celebrate the 120th anniversary has not been taken yet.

But Calcutta could emerge as the front runner to host the event, which is expected to draw global industry leaders, policymakers and lawmakers, if the January 17 appetiser passes muster.

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