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regular-article-logo Saturday, 20 April 2024

Bengal BJP slams Sourav Ganguly over decision to invest in West Midnapore steel plant

Ganguly is in Spain as part of a delegation from Bengal, led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, that is visiting the European country to scout for investment and to court La Liga, one of the most popular football leagues in the world

Our Special Correspondent Calcutta Published 17.09.23, 06:28 AM
Sourav Ganguly.

Sourav Ganguly. File picture

Sourav Ganguly, once billed as a potential chief minister candidate for the BJP in Bengal, came under attack from BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar on Saturday — a day after the former cricket captain praised the investment climate in the state and announced in Madrid his decision to invest Rs 2,500 crore, along with a friend, to set up a steel plant at Salboni in West Midnapore.

In a marked departure from the BJP’s approach towards Ganguly — who had to host Amit Shah to dinner after the Union home minister expressed an interest in visiting his Behala home in May 2022 — Majumdar suggested that chief minister Mamata Banerjee had co-opted the former captain to “fool the people of Bengal”.

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“I can’t understand why Sourav Ganguly announced the investment plan in Spain. He could have done it in Calcutta, Delhi or Mumbai. We had expected that during the chief minister’s visit to Spain, some industrialist from Spain would announce that he would set up a steel plant or an academy in Bengal…. But the chief minister is fooling the people of Bengal by asking Sourav Ganguly to announce his investment plans from Spain,” Majumdar said in Burdwan on Saturday.

Ganguly is in Spain as part of a delegation from Bengal, led by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, that is visiting the European country to scout for investment and to court La Liga, one of the most popular football leagues in the world.

The former cricket captain not only played a key role in sealing a deal with La Liga, which plans to set up a football academy in the state, but took active interest in promoting Brand Bengal at a business meeting, where he announced his upcoming Salboni investment, which is expected to create employment opportunities for 6,000 people at the outset.

A source in the saffron camp underlined that Majumdar’s comments were the first negative remarks on the sporting icon from the party. The Bengal BJP’s frustration with Ganguly was apparent from Majumdar’s declaration that he refused to accept the former cricketer as an industrialist.

“Sourav Ganguly is not an industrialist. He is a cricketer.... We don’t know when and where he started his industry,” Majumdar said, when told that Ganguly had announced that the Salboni facility would be the third steel plant under his belt.

Ganguly took care to explain on Friday that he belonged to a business family and had been part of business ventures, along with a friend, since
2007.

Captain Steel India Ltd, which manufactures TMT bars, will be the major driver behind the Salboni project that Ganguly announced.

“He has been serious about the project and was part of discussions with different government departments,” said a source in Nabanna, while stressing that the former cricketer seemed “involved” with the upcoming plant.

“If someone like Sourav comes forward, talks positively about the investment climate in the state and then puts his money here (Ganguly’s equity participation in the project is still not clear), it’s a huge boost for brand Bengal,” the source added.

Majumdar’s comments underscored the BJP’s heartbreak with Ganguly, who the party was hoping would become its face in the state.

The speculations on Ganguly’s possible association with the saffron camp, which had started ahead of the 2021 Assembly polls, had received a fresh lease of life after Shah had dinner at his Behala home.

Sources in the BJP said that Majumdar had himself proposed to make Ganguly the Sheriff of Calcutta soon after the BJP-led Tripura government appointed him its tourism ambassador in May this year.

Majumdar had at the time accused Mamata of failing to accord proper recognition to Ganguly.

“Now, when the chief minister has begun using him to draw investment to the state, Sukanta has started criticising the chief minister as well as Sourav. This may not send a positive message to the people of the state,” a BJP insider said.

Other BJP sources wondered whether Majumdar had breached the party line. “Our central leadership’s guideline on Sourav is very clear. If he cannot be encouraged to campaign for the BJP, it has to be ensured that he does not campaign for Trinamul, either. He should be kept neutral politically, given his popularity in Bengal and elsewhere. This is why the central leadership always maintained cordial relations with him,” said a BJP leader.

While Majumdar seems to have forgotten the guideline, his predecessor Dilip Ghosh — now sidelined in the
Bengal unit — sang a different tune.

“Sourav Ganguly has gone (to Spain) for the benefit of Bengal. I wish him all success. But I would request him not to be involved in the politics of bluff…. Mamata Banerjee should use all celebrities in Bengal to draw investment for the benefit of Bengal,” Ghosh said on Saturday.

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