Mamata Banerjee Crossed A Red Line By Needlessly Baiting The Union Government At An Investors’ Meet

Mamata Banerjee Crossed A Red Line By Needlessly Baiting The Union Government At An Investors’ Meet

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Thursday, April 21, 2022 03:58 PM IST
Mamata Banerjee Crossed A Red Line By Needlessly Baiting The Union Government At An Investors’ MeetWest Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the Bengal Global Business Summit (Facebook)
  • There are two aspects to this. The first is that the allegation levelled by the chief minister was patently false.

    The second is the impropriety of Mamata Banerjee’s act.

Mamata Banerjee leaves no opportunity to publicly take on the Union Government. While the adversarial politics that the chief minister prefers to practise is still understandable, what is not is the red line she crossed at an investors’ meet in Kolkata Wednesday (April 20).

At the fancily-titled 'Bengal Global Business Summit' to which industrialists and top corporate honchos, as well as diplomats and business delegations from 14 countries were invited, Banerjee turned to Governor Jagdeep Dhankar and asked him to tell the Union Government to ensure that central agencies don’t trouble industrialists investing in Bengal.

“All these industrialists are here. They can’t open their mouths. We want the Centre’s help. But I would like you to personally see that industrialists are not disturbed through some agencies,” Banerjee told the governor.

The underlying allegation in the chief minister’s statement is that the Union Government deploys central agencies (like the CBI, ED, SFIO etc) to harass industrialists in Bengal. That allegation is definitely not true, but that’s beside the point.

By voicing such an allegation in the presence of foreign envoys and businessmen from other countries, besides prominent industrialists and corporate personas from the rest of the country, Banerjee definitely crossed a red line. Criticising, levelling allegations (false in this case) and opposing the federal government in front of foreign delegates and diplomats amounts to exposing (self-defined) fault lines and is never indulged in by politicians in any state.

There are two aspects to this. The first is that the allegation levelled by the chief minister is patently false. There have been no cases of industrialists being probed by any central agency. Only some politicians who face grave charges of corruption and other misdeeds, as well as criminals and members of Bengal’s notorious sand and coal mafias, are under the glare of central investigation agencies.

The second is the impropriety of Mamata Banerjee’s act. It is never wise to air differences within a family--India is a federation of states and, thus, one big family--in public. Especially in front of foreigners. Mamata Banerjee violated that unwritten rule.

By doing so, she has exposed her antipathy towards the Union Government and her tendency to use every forum to pursue her adversarial politics. The Bengal chief minister used a non-political platform to indulge in politics and try to score a cheap and completely unnecessary political point. That portrayed her in a poor light, and the impropriety of it all would not have been lost on the foreign delegates as well as Indian businessmen and industrialists she was trying so hard to impress.

And more than all that, she scored a debilitating self-goal. Banerjee let the world know that she is antagonistic towards the Union Government and has an adversarial attitude towards New Delhi. That will make all potential investors deeply uncomfortable.

Investors want harmonious ties between a state they plan to invest in and the federal government. Antagonism between a state they have invested in and the Union Government does not provide a conducive business environment and is bad for business.

An industrialist/businessman has to deal with both the state and federal entities and antagonistic relations between the two can hamper business. Compared to most other states of the country, Bengal offers very few advantages to investors. When the chief minister ought to have been doing her best to create a conducive investment climate in Bengal, she has actually added a major hurdle to the long list of disadvantages that Bengal reels under.

A former Bengal-cadre IAS officer who retired as secretary of a major department in the Union Government two years ago told Swarajya that a chief minister crossing swords with the Centre in front of foreign envoys and business delegates from other nations is unheard of.

“It (the statement Mamata Banerjee made) only showed her in a poor light. It was improper and immature on her part. Petty politicking at such a forum defeated the very purpose of showcasing the state as an attractive investment destination,” he said.

Leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari slammed Mamata Banerjee for levelling false charges against the Union Government at the investors’ meet. “No industrialist has been ‘disturbed’ as she has falsely alleged. And all those present at the meeting knew that, they realised she was lying. She has lowered the image of Bengal,” he said.

Adhikari also mocked the ‘Bengal means business’ theme of the summit. “Bengal means blood, Bengal means bombs,” he said, referring to horrific political violence in the state. The BJP leader added that due to Banerjee’s misgovernance and widespread corruption as well as existence of ‘syndicates’ in the state, Bengal remains a poor investment destination.

An industrialist who runs a couple of export-oriented food processing units in Bengal said that the chief minister’s statement was uncalled for and made many cringe. “Such petty politicking at such an event created a very bad impression, especially among the foreign delegates. It also showed the chief minister in a very poor light,” he said.

Mamata Banerjee’s propensity to indulge in petty politics has often boomeranged on her and also harmed the state. Her impropriety at the investors meet Wednesday is a prime example of that.

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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