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regular-article-logo Thursday, 23 May 2024

Mamata underscores state's inclusiveness and culture on day one of BGBS to woo investments

In her 47-minute address at the inaugural session of the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) 2023, the chief minister started by listing the economic factors that make Bengal an attractive investment destination

Devadeep Purohit Calcutta Published 22.11.23, 05:18 AM
Mamata Banerjee at the BGBS in the Biswa Bangla Convention Centre on Tuesday.

Mamata Banerjee at the BGBS in the Biswa Bangla Convention Centre on Tuesday. Sanat Kr Sinha

Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday highlighted Bengal’s inclusive character and political stability among a host of other things, ranging from welfare schemes run by her government and proper physical infrastructure across the state, to pitch for investments.

In her 47-minute address at the inaugural session of the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS) 2023, the chief minister started by listing the economic factors that make Bengal an attractive investment destination. She, however, drifted midway through her address and flagged issues like communal harmony and political stability (under the Trinamul Congress regime) while making an earnest appeal to India Inc to invest in Bengal.

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“Everybody appreciates that Bengal is a land of culture, heritage, education, women’s empowerment and farmer’s rights…. There is no discrimination here,” said Mamata, who began her speech by thanking each industrialist who was on the dais.

In her address, she referred to Mukesh Ambani as “the great man”.

The chief minister also thanked the representatives of 35 countries who are taking part in the two-day conclave aimed at bringing investments to the state.

Unlike her other speeches at earlier summits, Mamata gave a detailed account of the “success” of the last six conclaves. The Opposition parties have consistently rubbished the government’s claims on the summits’ positive impact on the Bengal economy.

A source in the state government said the Opposition claims would be contested with facts and figures in due time.

“We celebrate Christmas like Durga Puja in Bengal.... I have personally attended Ramadan gatherings and performed the rituals with Muslims. They also invite me during the celebrations (the prayers on Red Road during Id). I go and take part in the festivals of Jains and Sikhs,” said Mamata.

The stress on Bengal’s inclusive character was significant at a time when several Western media outlets have expressed concerns over the apparent rise of intolerance in India in recent years.

“We all want a secular and tolerant India and there is little doubt that this message of the chief minister was well appreciated,” the CEO of a tech major told this correspondent after the inaugural session.

A source close to Mamata said she broached the issue as there were hundreds of foreign dignitaries in the audience.

“Besides, the Lok Sabha elections are nearing and so she has to address her constituency,” said the source.

While interacting with some reporters after the inaugural session, Mamata was asked why she spent so much time talking about Bengal’s secular traditions. She replied: “This is our biggest asset and that’s why I mentioned it.”

The turnout on the Day One of the conclave made the chief minister happy.

“So many people came.... The Ficci and the CII held their national executives here. There must be something in Bengal that all these people are here for,” she said at the informal interaction.

Mamata also used the occasion to swat away allegations of political violence in Bengal, a pet theme of the Opposition parties to attack the Trinamul government.

“This narrative is created by some parties to gain political mileage,” said Mamata,
before listing how various social development schemes of the state government benefitted almost all people in the state.

It could not be immediately ascertained whether Mamata’s pitch would convince India Inc to loosen their purse strings, but an industrialist said the Bengal chief minister scored with her earnest approach.

“Investment decisions depend on a host of factors.... But the biggest advantage in Bengal is if someone can reach her (Mamata) with a problem, she will surely try to address it to the best of her ability. She is very hands-on and that’s a strength,” he said.

There can be debates on whether this model of governance will yield the desired results. The neighbouring state of mineral-rich Odisha — which has been drawing huge investments in recent years — has been following a different path wherein the government has put in place a process that does not always require an intervention from the chief minister’s office unless the problem is grave in nature.

In an attempt to create a favourable environment for the industry, the Bengal government unveiled five new policies — on areas like Internet cable landing, logistics, export promotion, green hydrogen and new and renewable energy manufacturing promotion — during the inaugural session of the BGBS.

“We have identified 12 areas that can be game changers for Bengal.... These policies will facilitate the process and Bengal will reach new heights,” Mamata said.

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