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Shah-industry meet cancelled

Amit Shah took lunch at BJP karyakarta Manas Sen’s home at a slum in Calcutta’s Cossipore on Wednesday. Sen, who has been with the RSS-BJP parivar since the age of seven, and his mother Monika greeted Shah with a fairly elaborate vegetarian Bengali spread. Shah — who had lunch sitting cross-legged on the floor — had gobindobhog rice, ruti, shukto and moong dal among others. “It was a dream come true. This is the happiest and the proudest moment of my life,” said Sen.
Picture by Sanat Kumar Sinha

Calcutta, Sept. 13: An interactive session with BJP president Amit Shah convened by the Merchants' Chamber of Commerce & Industry and scheduled to take place this afternoon was called off amid questions on reasons for the cancellation.

Leaders of the state unit of the BJP started talking about the possibility of the event's cancellation from yesterday afternoon, while the official communication was sent out last evening.

"Amitji had to go to Delhi urgently because of something urgent, something unforeseen. That is why the chamber event had to be cancelled," said state general secretary Sayantan Basu.

Even as the party claimed that the meeting was cancelled because of Shah's engagements in Delhi, several theories regarding the cancellation of the meeting floated in the business circles in Calcutta.

"The BJP president was unhappy that prominent industrialists in Bengal wouldn't attend today's session and that's why it was cancelled," said the head of a leading chamber in the city.

According to him, the profile of the audience came up for discussion on Monday evening, when Shah was checking the programmes he was supposed to attend on the final day of his trip to Bengal.

"Shah wanted to know who all would attend the programme. He was told that the bigger names belonged to bigger chambers," he added.

Sources said Shah was "displeased" when he learnt that even a senior office-bearer of the MCC was also out of town. Sources said although the MCC had invited prominent captains of industry in Calcutta, many of them opted out fearing a backlash from the state government.

"Apparently, some senior government officials had started enquiring about who all would be attending the meeting and that resulted in some pressing the panic button," said a source.

Besides, sources said state BJP president Dilip Ghosh had originally convinced Shah to attend the session and the anti-Ghosh lobby in the state unit advised the national president to give it a miss because the big guns of Calcutta Inc. would be absent.

Although the session was called off, not everyone got the message in time. At least one industrialist found out about the cancellation when he reached the venue, a five-star hotel in central Calcutta, today. Demand for passes were high for today's session, especially from the small and medium business segments.

While the BJP has traditionally been regarded as a party that has a huge support base among people from the world of business and industry, in Bengal, the most prominent businessmen have stood with Mamata Banerjee and the ruling Trinamul Congress.

"We could not have afforded a meeting between our national president and people who did not fit the profile parameters. That is why the meeting was cancelled," said a state BJP functionary.

Shah had, on August 13, 2015, participated in an event organised by the Indian Chamber of Commerce here, although many movers and shakers from the city had been absent.

Last night, after the cancellation of the meeting was made public, the BJP tried to arrange at least 10 prominent business faces from the city to meet Shah this morning. Accordingly, at least four industrialists visited Shah at the Calcutta Port Trust guesthouse between 11am and midday.

Those who met him included Mahendra Jalan and his son Mayank of Keventer Agro, Gaurav Swarup of Paharpur Cooling Towers and Sajjan Bhajanka of Century Plyboards.


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