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Mamata’s Take On Industrial Provincialism

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Chief minister Mamata Banerjee told industrialists on Wednesday that she always considered people from Rajasthan, Gujarat and other parts of the country settled in Bengal as children of the soil, making a clear distinction between them and political parachutists.

“You are all Bengali. I don’t call you outsiders.… We have got so much support from you. Those who suddenly come here before the polls, I call them outsiders,” Mamata said during her first interaction with industrialists in the state since Covid-19 struck the country.

“Please don’t get bothered about this debate on outsiders…. I refer to the invaders, who come with the objective of creating riots and division among people, as outsiders,” the chief minister said during a 90-minute interaction.

“Please don’t misunderstand me.… I know that you all are more than Bengali,” Mamata added, drawing a huge round of applause.

Trying to establish that she was above narrow provincialism, Mamata called out the names of top civil and police administration officials and asked them about their states of origin. “Did I ever ask anyone about their surnames? I only ask whether the work is done,” she said.

The West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation had organised the interaction at an auditorium near Nabanna. Seventy-five business leaders from across the state participated.

Sources close to the chief minister said that since the objective was to broad-base the interaction, the list of invitees included not just the known faces from Calcutta but also businesspeople from north Bengal and remote areas like Purulia.

The meet-and-greet session began with the chief minister outlining the growing business opportunities in Bengal because of the Deocha-Panchami coal block in Birbhum, oil and gas reserves at Ashoknagar in North 24-Parganas, deep-sea port at Tajpur in East Midnapore, Silicon Valley at Newtown in Rajarhat, and the leather complex at Bantala in South 24-Parganas.

The predominant takeaway from the interaction was, however, Mamata’s assurance that came against the backdrop of her hanging the “outsider” tag on BJP leaders hotfooting to Bengal from elsewhere, often betraying their lack of familiarity with local sensibilities and culture.

“We are all the same, the only difference is that we speak different languages. Some people coming from outside are trying to create divisions among us,” she said.

“Some people from Gujarat will come before the election, go to Bhowanipore and tell people not to vote for me. I don’t mind, but I have a sister-brother relation with you and that relationship should remain intact,” Mamata added, making it clear she wanted the support of non-Bengalis in the Assembly elections.

The chief minister used the session to prod the business leaders to invest in the state before gauging their perceptions about the debate on outsiders, the state of industry in Bengal and the problems they encountered in pursuing their projects.

All the business leaders who got an opportunity to speak told Mamata they had never felt discriminated against in Bengal although they were originally from states like Rajasthan or Gujarat.

Seeking to explain why the Trinamul government was business-friendly, Mamata reminded the business leaders of the problems they had had to face because of measures like the demonetisation.

Referring to one of the business community’s pet peeves, the chief minister said: “I never disturb you, but I know they disturb you with ED (Enforcement Directorate), CBI or income-tax raids. I know people have to pay every month.… I never asked for money from you.”

Sources close to Mamata said the interaction was significant in the context of the shrill exchange on “outsiders” between the BJP and Trinamul. Over the past month or so, several BJP leaders have accused Mamata of defying the spirit of the Constitution by bringing up the issue of “outsiders”.

Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar waded into the debate on Wednesday, saying it was unfortunate that some people were describing those coming from other states as “outsiders”. He said this was “against the idea of the Constitution”.

Mamata went to Raj Bhavan in the evening on what sources said was a courtesy call. Before that, she had accused Dhankhar of parroting the BJP line.

“Even today, the governor said that I call everyone an ‘outsider’…. How can someone holding a constitutional post make a comment like that?” she asked.

Courtesy – Telegraphindia

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