Mumbai to miss Mamata

Calcutta, Jan. 25: The Bengal government has "deferred" indefinitely Mamata Banerjee's Mumbai roadshow to woo investors.

Industries minister Partha Chatterjee said the meeting, scheduled for February 13, could be put off by a "few days" but added that it had not been called off.

The newspaper Ebela had first reported on the uncertainties surrounding the Mumbai meeting.

Sources said the event was unlikely to take place at least until the first week of March, after which the chief minister would decide if it would be held at all. Several theories were offered ' some by unofficial sources and others by government sources that are self-evident ' on why the Mumbai meeting was put on hold.

Theory 1

Top industrialists of Mumbai will be off to Goa to attend a wedding. Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani's son Karan Adani is scheduled to marry Paridhi Shroff, daughter of Cyril Shroff, the managing partner of legal firm Amarchand and Mangaldas.

It is possible that Bengal officials were unaware of this social occasion when Mamata's schedule was drawn up. The wedding in nearby Goa is on February 14, a day after the original date for the Mumbai business interaction.

Sources said the Bengal government was worried that if many industrialists skirted Mamata's meet and turned up in full strength for the Goa wedding, comparisons would be unavoidable. The possible contrast between a business event and a wedding would have been too hard to swallow.

The effect of comparisons on Mamata was evident at Bengal Leads, the investment flop show at Haldia earlier this month. Mamata had devoted considerable time to denounce attempts to compare Bengal Leads with Vibrant Gujarat, an event that preceded the Haldia "fair".

Theory 2

Big names ' a phenomenon the government loves to hate but pines for nevertheless ' were playing hard to get.

Sources said the government was not getting confirmation from the Ambani brothers and new Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry for the February 13 meeting.

"Questions will obviously be raised if the biggest names based in Mumbai do not turn up for an event held there. It is better to hold the meeting when they agree or not hold it at all," said a government official.

Mamata's Delhi meeting in December, where she had hinted at the Mumbai programme, had failed to draw any big guns.

Theory 3

The Bengal Leads wound is still raw.

The event, held at Haldia to tomtom all's well after the pullout of cargo handler HBT, had evoked one of the most tepid responses in recent memory for a business meet in Bengal.

A city-based industrialist said the state government might have realised it needed "something to offer" before stepping out to woo investors.

The CPM rubbed it in today. "In Haldia, Bengal Leads turned out to be Bengal Bleeds. In this situation, if the proposed meet (in Mumbai) took place, the people of the state would have suffered. There was no preparation. I think good sense has prevailed and the meet has been cancelled," CPM state secretary Biman Bose said in response to a question.

Theory 4

The government, especially finance minister Amit Mitra, will be busy preparing for the state budget.

But the budget will be presented only in March. In a state known for holidays at the drop of a hat, a loss of one or two days for the Mumbai meet would hardly have derailed the budget exercise.

Theory 5

The chief minister will be busy with events associated with Saraswati Puja, which falls on February 15, two days after the scheduled date for the Mumbai meeting.

However, the auspicious date was known when the business meet was scheduled. The Mumbai event was finalised when Mamata met representatives of chambers of commerce at Writers' Buildings on January 9 ahead of Bengal Leads.

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