Mumbai, Sept. 2: Chief minister Babulal Marandi today learnt how far Mumbai is from Jharkhand, but was not too sure if Mumbai had realised how far Jharkhand is.
Many of the businessmen he met were not certain if the state had been carved out of Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. And Dhanbad' “Where is it exactly, Mr Marandi'” a cigar-smoking representatives of a business lobby asked.
At the end of the first day of the two-day “investment roadshow”, the bottomline for Marandi was: It’s difficult being the Jharkhand chief minister in the country’s business capital.
A bureaucrat travelling with Marandi said: “It is tough to get commitments for investments from businessmen here. To many CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) members we first had to explain where Jharkhand is and which party is ruling it. Forget the king, they didn’t even know about his kingdom.”
It’s just as well the chief ministers did not take the advice of kicking off his woo-business campaign abroad.
“Imagine the fiasco when the US government would have asked the Indian consulate there about Jharkhand and what its chief minister was doing there and the desi bureaucrat would have said, ‘wait a moment, please, let me find out first’. Had the CM gone abroad in September as planned earlier, the consequences could have been disastrous,” the bureaucrat added.
Better sense prevailed and Marandi decided to start from Mumbai instead.
The chief minister made no bones about the mountain of obstacles he faces. “It is a new state, you can’t blame them,” he said, laughing heartily. “My first priority is to tell them (investors) what Jharkhand is and where it is. Jab mein yahan aya kisi ko bhi maloom nahi tha Jharkhand kidhar hai.”
Optimistic nonetheless, he said he expects investments in power, mines and coal. At the CII-organised roadshow, Marandi met the head honchos of the Essar, Ispat and S. Kumars groups. He also had a chat with the Western India Film Producers Association, just in case.
The chief minister said the interest shown by the delegates who met him was “very encouraging”. He said many business houses have promised to “take a look” and see the ground situation for themselves.
“That is the first step, isn’t it'” Marandi said.
He dismissed all the accusations against him and the immense hurdles in the state, including the threat from the MCC, corruption and the domicile controversy.
“There are many challenges before me but no threat,” he said. “Our literacy levels are below the national average, there are no roads and no electricity, but that is the whole point. Had everything been in place what would Marandi have done' I have to remedy all these in the next five years and that is the fun.”
His bureaucrats, though, acknowledge the MCC threat and how it could affect investors.
Tongue firmly in cheek, Marandi said: “There is maximum security in Jharkhand.”
“If there is a third world war, places like Mumbai, Delhi and New York will be attacked first. People will leave Jharkhand alone...,” he trails off, biting his tongue before adding, “and that’s because even the CII doesn’t know where Jharkhand is.”