The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Business tries to catch Left ears

New Delhi, Nov. 6: Don’t be surprised if Sitaram Yechury or even Prakash Karat makes an appearance at what is arguably the country’s most important business meet, the India Economic Summit.

If one of them does, it will be one of the consequences of the process of dialogue Indian industry has started with the Left leadership to try and convince it of the virtues of adopting a middle path in key economic decisions such as foreign investment in retail trade, financial reforms and public sector divestment.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, who is considered a hardliner by industry, held a meeting with leading members of the business lobby Assocham yesterday and is expected at a gathering of the chamber early next month.

“The meeting is expected to take up a number of politically ticklish issues, including foreign investment in retail, labour law reforms and divestment,” an Assocham official said.

Efforts are also under way to get on stage the top Left leadership at the India Economic Summit organised jointly by the World Economic Forum and the Confederation of Indian Industry.

At the three-day annual summit, which starts on the first Sunday of December every year, the country’s top political leadership presents its views before business leaders from India and abroad.

“At least some of the top leaders of the Left are expected to participate. The names that are doing the rounds are Prakash Karat, Sitaram Yechury and D. Raja,” an industrialist said.

Headquartered in Geneva, the Forum has been described by some as the most powerful think-tank of world business.

Bengal chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, now a toast of industry, is also scheduled to address business leaders under the aegis of Assocham in Mumbai on November 23.

The timings of these meetings are also significant as they are being held in the middle of Parliament’s winter session when crucial bills on banking reforms and pension are expected to be placed.

Industry knows it will not be easy to persuade Left leaders to accept foreign investment in retail or divestment from navratna public sector units. They will instead argue for a middle ground that will allow limited opening up of retail trade.

They will also urge the Left to agree to public issues of shares of non-navratna units and sales of irrevocably sick government-owned companies.

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