The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gates aborts tech trip on bad road

Chennai, Dec. 8: Bill Gates couldn’t make it because the road was bad. But that didn’t stop politics from putting in an appearance.

Local rivalries were on show today after Union minister Dayanidhi Maran had to abort a plan to take the Microsoft chief to the city’s information technology showpiece.

The communications and IT minister later told reporters that the road to Tidel Park, which houses several software companies, was so “bad” after the recent spells of heavy rain that he could not take Gates there as planned.

In a dig at the Jayalalithaa-led ADMK government, Maran said Tamil Nadu had a “long way to go” as far as development of its IT industry was concerned.

“Tamil Nadu’s infrastructure is very bad. We have to concentrate on infrastruct- ure when such big people (like Gates) come here,” he added.

The elements have certainly taken their toll of the infrastructure.

After Cyclone Baaz battered the southern metropolis and neighbouring districts with heavy rain, IT professionals had struggled to reach their workplaces, wading through waterlogged and pot-holed streets.

Maran’s barb at the ruling ADMK came minutes after Gates emerged from the Gopalapuram residence of former chief minister and Maran’s granduncle M. Karunanidhi.

The Microsoft chief, who is visiting the city for the first time, held a 20-minute meeting with the DMK chief.

Earlier, Microsoft India CEO Ravi Venkatesan accompanied his boss to Karunanidhi’s house.

Maran welcomed the tech czar at the gates after he alighted from a Mercedes Benz.

Gates did not speak to the media after the meeting. But Karunanidhi later said he “urged” Gates to “invest more in industries related to computers and software in India in general and Tamil Nadu in particular”.

The DMK chief, who presented Gates an English translation of his commentary on the Tamil classic Thirukkural and a collection of his Tamil stories, said the Microsoft chief gave him a patient hearing and told him he would consider his request.

“I also explained to Mr Gates the steps taken by the previous DMK regime to facilitate the expansion of the computer and software-related industries in the state,” Karunanidhi said.

Tidel Park was constructed when Karunanidhi was chief minister from 1996 to 2001 and his late nephew Murasoli Maran, Dayanidhi Maran’s father, was the commerce and industries minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee- led NDA government at the Centre.

Gates also visited a hospital in suburban Tambaram where AIDS patients are being treated.

The multi-billion-dollar Bill Gates foundation is funding programmes to fight the deadly disease. Gates is expected to meet Jayalalithaa tomorrow morning.

The chief minister today presided over the signing of a memorandum of understanding between German automobile manufacturer BMW and the Tamil Nadu government.

Under the deal, the state government will invest about Rs 180 crore over the next five years to set up a car assembly plant in the Mahindra World City complex in Maraimalainagar, about 40 km from Chennai.

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