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Nitish catches land chill for NRI meet

Patna, Jan. 8: Bihar will talk about its growth mantra and investment opportunities it has in New Delhi tomorrow but without the chief minister in attendance.

Officials at the chief minister’s secretariat said Nitish Kumar had some “prior engagements” and hence won’t attend the final day of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations currently under way in the national capital.

“The chief minister is not going for the function. He has some prior engagements and hence cannot make it,” an official at the secretariat said. Nitish is due to attend a programme at Patna Women’s College at 3pm tomorrow.

The explanation has not gone down too well with industrialists, who say Nitish has missed an opportunity to woo NRIs who would be present at the event.

The three-day festival started at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi on Tuesday.

However, with the hurdles surrounding land availability proving insurmountable, sources said Nitish has no answers to offer.

The government has sent a delegation comprising officials of the state industries department and heads of the industry bodies for the event.

“Until now, we do not have any information whether Nitish will attend it or not. Thursday will be an important day for Bihar with the second half of the day slotted for parallel state discussions. The slot for Bihar is for one-and-a-half hours starting at 12 noon. The state industries minister (Renu Kumari) is expected to attend the meeting but she has not arrived yet,” a member of the Bihar delegation told The Telegraph from New Delhi.

According to the printed programme for tomorrow, a panel discussion titled “Investment Opportunities in States” will be held with Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia as the moderator. The chief ministers of Gujarat (Narendra Modi), Haryana (Bhupinder Singh Hooda), Kerala (Oommen Chandy), Meghalaya (Mukul Sangma) and Goa (Manohar Parrikar) are expected to take part. Parikkar is yet to confirm his participation.

Following this, there will be parallel state sessions on Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, Punjab and Rajasthan, said R.S. Khurana, a senior official of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), which is among the event organisers.

Sources said Nitish’s non-participation was a good chance lost.

“With the elections approaching, it was a good opportunity for Nitish to come face to face with entrepreneurs and investors and explain Bihar to them. Though senior officials of the industries department are there, words coming from the horse’s mouth always carry more weight. With the power situation having improved, it can be said the state has gone one step ahead. Nitish could have stressed on this in front of the industrialists. His oratorical skills cannot be compared to that of other members of the Bihar delegation,” an industrialist said.

Another industrialist said the question of land availability was why Nitish had opted to skip the meeting.

“Last year too, Nitish had not attended the meet held in Kerala. The state, at that time, was struggling on both the power and land fronts. Bihar, at present, does not have any answers to the land problem. The state has floated the Private Industrial Area Policy but it is still to become popular,” he said.