The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha on brand wagon

Calcutta, Oct. 18: Come October 29, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will take his pitch for Bengal the business destination to the capital.

But the showcasing at the annual national conference of the Confederation of Indian Industry will have to be unlike any before.

The Bengal chief minister will be flanked by his counterparts from two different political camps ' Sheila Dikshit of Delhi and Vasundhara Raje of Rajasthan ' while presenting his case on 'States as Competing Markets' in the presence of the who's who of India Inc.

'At one-to-one meetings, the chief minister has always impressed industry captains. But Dikshit and Raje are also known performers and have the branding of industry-friendly leaders. The meet will be Bhattacharjee's acid test as he will be facing competitors,' said an industry observer.

The session is expected to be the main draw of the two-day meet to be inaugurated by Union finance minister P. Chidambaram. CII officials said they conceived the session to prove that governments, irrespective of their politics, can no longer ignore economics.

But observers pointed out that the session ' with three chief ministers getting to woo potential investors from the same platform ' would turn into a brand battle.

Besides the CII brass, including president Sunil K. Munjal and vice-president Y.C. Deveshwar, the audience will include Pramod Bhasin of GE Capital, Baba Kalyani of Bharat Forge, Rahul Bajaj of Bajaj Auto, Sanjeev Gupta of Coca-Cola and Rajeev Bakshi of Pepsi.

The political establishment will also have a significant representation. Union commerce minister Kamal Nath, IT and communications minister Dayanidhi Maran, civil aviation minister Praful Patel and defence minister Pranab Mukherjee will address the meet.

Sources suggested that Bhattacharjee's back-room boys would stitch up a strategy different from the usual statistics-loaded presentations, which the chief minister blends with his candour.

One of them said: 'The national conference is attended by all senior industrialists and CEOs. It will be a good opportunity for the chief minister to communicate his commitment to foreign direct investment and economic reforms.'

The timing of the event ' the CPM politburo meeting is scheduled in the same week ' will heighten interest levels given the industry's apprehensions about the politburo's stand on reforms.

During Bhattacharjee's roadshow in Mumbai in August, Adi Godrej had asked him if his views on FDI had the approval of his politburo colleagues. 'In Delhi, the chief minister will get an opportunity to air his views in an open forum before taking on party hard-liners,' said an industrialist.

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