Dinner and dash of cash for Buddha

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By OUR BUREAU in Delhi
  • Published 1.09.05

New Delhi, Aug. 31: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee met the Prime Minister over dinner tonight at the end of a successful day during which he received assurances of support for his industrialisation drive from central leaders.

No one else was present at the meeting, but there were indications that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was using the occasion to gain an insight into the CPM’s mind on economic reforms.

“He wanted to know who all I had met in Singapore and Jakarta. I also told him about minor state problems,” the Bengal chief minister said.

Sources said the Prime Minister offered Bhattacharjee help in his efforts to draw investments. On behalf of his party, the chief minister sought to allay Singh’s fears about opposition to reforms.

Bhattacharjee’s comments and business deals in Singapore and Indonesia caused some flutter back home, giving the impression that he and his party differed on economic issues.

“What I said in Singapore will not change now that I am back in India,” the chief minister said. “The world is changing and we have to change, too. Dogmas do not help.”

True or not ? and the CPM leadership as well as the chief minister later explained there are no differences ? Singh had used those comments to praise Bhattacharjee as a “role model”.

In the backdrop of the Left’s differences with his government over reforms ? whereas Bhattacharjee was sounding more like him ? the Prime Minister’s praise appeared intended to point at a rift within the CPM.

Whatever the differences in Delhi between the Congress and the CPM, Bhattacharjee would not suffer.

At a meeting earlier in the day with commerce minister Kamal Nath, Bhattacharjee received assurances on various counts. One of these was money for a special economic zone extending from Majherhat to Budge Budge. Also on the agenda was infrastructure development at Haldia.

Nath said the Centre would make money available to Bengal for public-private infrastructure projects.

“The government of India is committed to supporting the industrialisation plans of the Bengal government.”

Nath said Bengal would be the “focus state” at the India International Trade Fair here.

Bhattacharjee was careful. Even on contentious labour reforms, he said: “Let a proposal be made, we will look at it.”

About the dinner meeting, the sources said the Prime Minister expected to get a clear indication of the CPM’s “mind” on matters on which the two allies did not agree.

Depending on that, a meeting of the coordination committee, which the Left has temporarily boycotted to protest against divestment from Bhel, might be called.