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Bloc wants retail talks with Buddha

Calcutta, Jan. 1: The Forward Bloc, which has vehemently opposed the entry of big companies in retail, today showed interest in the chief minister’s “formula” for their “controlled entry”.

Party veteran Ashok Ghosh said: “We are sticking to our position. But we don’t mind discussing the control mechanism that the chief minister is planning for the domestic big players in retail. Any decision must be based on consensus.”

He pointed out differences even within the CPM on retail. “What the chief minister or his party is saying isn’t the Left Front’s stand. Even the CPM’s frontal organisations, like the co-ordination committee or the Citu supporters in the agriculture marketing board, are opposing the entry of big capital in retail.”

The chief minister told a Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry meeting on Friday that Indian retail gi- ants “must be” allowed to do business in Bengal as their “modern market mechanism” would benefit the state’s farmers.

Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, however, wanted to flash the green light “very cautiously and slowly” as many could “lose jobs” with the entry of the big retailers.

The CPM is opposed to foreign direct investment in retail but unlike its allies in the front, it has not called for a ban on the entry of Indian big business.

The government recently amended the panchayat law empowering zilla parishads to construct and maintain markets or shopping complexes for farm products in districts. The move was apparently aimed at pre-empting the Bloc-run agriculture marketing board’s resistance to Reliance and other companies.

Ghosh today said any “unilateral move” by the CPM on retail would aggravate the “crisis in the front triggered by differences over Singur and Nandigram”.

“Our party as well as the RSP and the CPI have already made our fundamental differences with the CPM clear. If it continues to impose its will on us, we will not accept it.’’

The Bloc will hold a rally in Singur on Sunday.

“We can’t suffer because of the CPM’s follies. As in Nandigram, they told us something and did something else in Singur,” Ghosh said without elaborating. “We’d take it to the people of Singur.”

Ghosh declined to meet CPM state secretary Biman Bose for bipartite talks before the Singur rally.

His party will contest the panchayat elections alone this year.

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