BJP questions Bengal’s investment story a day before state’s annual investment summit
Telegraph | 21 November 2023
A day before Mamata Banerjee sounds the bugle for the seventh edition of the state's annual flagship business event, the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS), 2023, a bitter political spat broke out between the BJP and the ruling Trinamul Congress over conflicting claims of successes which the previous six editions of the summit have achieved.
The two-day conclave is scheduled for inauguration on Tuesday with the likes of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and prominent representatives of ITC, Bengal Ambuja and Hiranandani Groups in attendance, state officials said. Domestic corporate honchos like Sanjeev Goenka, Sanjeev Puri, Purnendu Chattopadhyay, Harshvardhan Neotia and Sajjan Jindal are scheduled to be among the dignitaries attending the marquee event, it was learnt.
The summit would be host to business leaders from over 25 countries – including the US, UK, Japan, Poland, France, Australia, Germany, Malaysia, Bangladesh and Fiji – and more than 250 international delegates are scheduled to be part of the show.
No clarity was, however, received on whether Gautam Adani, chairman of the embattled Adani Group, would repeat his presence on the BGBS stage this time around after committing an investment of Rs 10,000 crore in the state over a span of a decade at last year's edition of the summit. Adani had said the group’s investments will span world-class port infrastructure, state-of-the-art data centres and undersea cables that will connect them across the oceans, centres of excellence in digital innovation, warehouses and logistics parks and help generate 25,000 direct and indirect employment.
Adani Ports was the highest bidder for the deep-sea port in Tajpur and a Letter of Intent was issued to the company by the state government. But ever since the Group ran into rough weather following the January 24 report of the US short-seller Hindenberg Research flagged high debt levels at the port-to-energy conglomerate, the state has maintained radio silence on the future developments of the Tajpur port. So much so, that in February this year when the government tabled its budget at the state Assembly, not a word was spoken about the proposed project.
In August this year, the company said that the Rs 25,000 crore Tajpur project was very much on and that the company was awaiting the Letter of Award for the project following which it would proceed for the necessary environmental clearances.
Lashing out at the summit initiative on X handle by calling it “another jamboree at public expense”, Bengal Leader of Opposition Suvendu Adhikari stated: “BGBS is not Bengal Global Business Summit. It’s a 2-day Mamata-made-Mirage, consciously projected as an oasis in the barren desert of deindustrialization in WB, to deceive the people into believing that Bengal is on the path of economic boom.”
“This BGBS summit is neither about Business & is far from being Global, it's only glossy lies which would be served to the people of Bengal!” Adhikari continued. Referring to the government’s claim of garnering cumulative proposed investments to the tune of Rs 15.75 lakh crore in the previous six summit editions, Adhikari demanded that chief minister Mamata Banerjee should come clean on how much of those proposals were actually implemented on the ground. “Kindly publish where it got implemented along with a list of those who got employment due to such investment!” he wrote.
“On behalf of the people of West Bengal let me ask her, what happened to Deocha Pachami, where she announced 2 lakh jobs; has even one kilogram of coal been extracted from the mines there? And what is the current status of Tajpur Port for which the Agreement was signed with much fanfare?” Adhikari wrote and added: “To jog peoples' memories; both these projects were announced amidst much drum beating in the last edition of this summit!”
“BGBS is all about signing fake MOUs, showing vague Expression of Interests & issuing Letters of Intent that end up in the dustbin. BGBS in reality is a facade masking the Businesses' Graveyard in a Bankrupt State,” the BJP leader alleged.
The government, interestingly, included both the Deucha-Pachami and the Tajpur port in the summit’s overview note. “Amongst the upcoming flagship projects in the state, Jangal Sundari Karmnagari Industrial Township is being set up over 4,000 acres in Purulia. Mining operations at Deocha-Pachami-Dewanganj- Harinsigha, the second largest coal block in the world is expected to start soon,” the note on the Summit website read.
“We have ready-to-Invest Industrial Infrastructure with 200+ Industrial Parks/ Estates spread over an area of around 10,000 acres. A 200-acre IT and Electronics Park (Silicon Valley) is being set up at Rajarhat. Three Industrial Growth Corridors are being developed at: Dankuni- Raghunathpur; Dankuni-Kalyani; Dankuni-Haldia to augment the pace of industrialization in Bengal. The state has two large container and bulk handling ports at Kolkata and Haldia and a new deep-sea port is coming up at Tajpur,” it added.
The political counter to Adhikari’s allegations came from TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh. “To enlighten Mr. Adhikari, I'll have him know that: Bengal's GDP has been growing at 12.6%, outpacing the national average; It increased threefold from Rs 4.74 lakh crore in 2011 to Rs 14.44 lakh crore in 2020-21; Over 75% of the West Bengal GVA comes from industries and manufacturing; The State is home to India’s second highest number of MSMEs,” Ghosh posted on his X handle.
“Your ostrich mentality won't change the reality of Bengal's thriving industrial landscape!” the TMC leader retorted.
State government figures claim that in the 2022 edition, a total of 137 MoUs, Letters of Intent (LoI) and Expressions of Interest (EoI) towards investment proposals of Rs 3,42,375 crore were signed. These have a total employment potential of 40 lakh, the data states.