The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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IT bridge across political divide

Calcutta, Dec. 1: If Bengal needed a godfather in Delhi — and, according to MP Somnath Chatterjee, it did — it got one today. In Pramod Mahajan: BJP godfather of a CPM-ruled state.

But forget saffron and red, all colours are united under Mahajan’s infotech umbrella. The information technology and communications minister promised that political differences “will never” impede promotion of investment in knowledge-based industries in the eastern part of the country. Quite the contrary: the Centre will go “out of the way” to promote Bengal and the rest of the region.

The four-day conference and exhibition of the infotech and communications industry, the biggest ever in the east and Northeast with chief ministers of the states of the region or other high-level representatives in attendance, was opened by Mahajan this evening on this note of political camaraderie.

Called Infocom 2002, it has been jointly organised by Nasscom, the infotech business association, and Businessworld, an Ananda Bazar group publication.

Two ministers from Bengal, Nirupam Sen (commerce and industries) and Manab Mukherjee (infotech) shared in it, as did Chatterjee, who faces off Mahajan in Parliament, but conceded that the Union minister has been non-partisan with help.

Mahajan appeared more than keen to play godfather, but picking up the cue from Chatterjee, said Bengal did have an “image problem”.

“Look at me. I am secular but have some other image. The trouble is image is created by someone else while you have to take the corrective measures,” Mahajan said, calling upon the Bengal government to launch a publicity offensive.

“Why don’t I see hoardings all across the city with (chief minister) Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee urging businessmen to invest in IT' Chandrababu Naidu is all over the place in Hyderabad,” he said.

Why does Microsoft boss Bill Gates go to Hyderabad every time he is in India and not to Lucknow, which is the Prime Minister’s constituency' It’s the image, Mahajan added, though Hyderabad is way behind Chennai, Bangalore and Mumbai in terms of exports.

“Sell Calcutta,” Mahajan —fresh from campaigning in Gujarat — exhorted, as though urging the three Bengal leaders sitting on the dais with him to take it up as a slogan.

In a reciprocal display of disappearance of the edge in Centre-state relations, Mahajan’s Bengal counterpart, Mukherjee, thanked the Union minister for “speedy clearance” of Bengal’s projects and offered cooperation in return.

“The state government will extend all support to complete the Central government-backed software technology parks in Durgapur and Kharagpur,” he said.

“This is the first time an event of this magnitude is being held in Calcutta, and this could well mark the beginning of a new era,” said Nasscom president Kiran Karnik.

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