The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Reliance turns front football

Calcutta, May 14: Hands full with Nandigram, the Left Front will have to find time to discuss Reliance too.

Three partners today forced the alliance’s district committee to refer to the state Left Front the Reliance plan to rebuild the rundown Park Circus market.

The allies, which had earlier stalled the company’s entry into farm retail, insisted on a discussion at the higher level, though Reliance has won the contract for the CMC-run market’s makeover with a Rs 30.33-crore bid.

The issue also figured at this morning’s state Left Front meeting where the allies pressed Bengal CPM secretary Biman Bose to call one on Reliance.

The allies — the Forward Bloc, CPI and the RSP — accuse the Calcutta corporation of helping the Mukesh Ambani-led company make a “backdoor entry” into the city’s retail market.

CPM leaders, however, said the corporation can move ahead in involving private developers like it has done in the case of College Street and Lake markets.

But with the allies insisting on a political solution, both sides would sit with the mayor, the CPM’s Bikash Bhattacharya, who is scheduled to return from abroad tonight. At the last mayor-in-council meeting, a discussion on Reliance was postponed.

Although Reliance has won the bid, endorsements from the mayor-in-council and the CMC general house are needed before the company can rebuild the market.

Once the official sanction comes through, Reliance is likely to get a 99-year lease with the right to keep for its own use around 1.5 lakh square feet of the market’s 2.5-lakh-sq-ft area for building markets and multiplexes.

Existing traders will be relocated in the remaining area and the CMC will be offered some space for an office. Since Reliance has won through competitive bidding, the company is on a strong wicket legally.

At the district front meeting today, CPI city unit secretary Prabir Deb said the Reliance Retail venture would be different from that of other private developers who had bagged market makeover contracts.

“Unlike others, Reliance is two-in-one — developer-cum-businessman. It’s this latter role that would affect retailers badly,’’ he said later.

CPM district secretariat member Dilip Sen countered it, saying Indian companies can’t be “denied the right” to enter the city’s retail market. “All we want is that existing stall-holders have to be rehabilitated in the redeveloped markets,” he said.

Reliance officials were not available for comment.

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