Buddha gets Basu to 'sell' Reliance plan

Kolkata, Apr 27 | Updated: Apr 28 2007, 08:41am hrs
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Friday roped in Jyoti Basu, the `guardian' of the Left Front, to explain to the Left Front partners that the government should not oppose the entry of Reliance Industries Ltd's farm-to-table retail chain.

At Friday's routine meeting of the CPI(M) state secretariat at Alimuddin Street, Bhattacharjee detailed the proposals that had reached the government on the retail front.

Sources said Bhattacharjee had explained that the government cannot legally oppose the entry of the retail chains, and this position should be explained to partners like the Forward Bloc, which has already declared war on Reliance.

The Left Front is scheduled to meet on May 7 to discuss the Nandigram issue, but Reliance retail is also likely to figure on the agenda.

On Friday, following the secretariat meeting, Jyoti Basu said that Reliance is free to pursue its retail plans in and around Kolkata. "The government cannot oppose the plans," Basu told reporters.

The Forward Bloc is apprehensive that private sector initiatives like that of Reliance will erode their power base in the agriculture marketing department, one of the ministries allotted to it in the Left Front government.

While it has been making noises for the past six months, the Bloc has been galvanised into action by the decision of the CPI(M) run Kolkata Municipal Corporation to hand over the ageing civic markets to private partners for a complete makeover.

On Wednesday, the KMC named Reliance as the highest bidder for the reconstruction of the 76-year-old Park Circus market, and said all the 20 civic markets in Kolkata would be developed along similar lines.

This prompted the Forward Bloc to demand that all civic markets be handed over to the agricultural marketing department. However, the Bloc has also realised that the CPI(M) can do what it wants with the markets since it controls two key ministries --- urban development and panchayat & rural development.

CPI(M) sources said Bhattacharjee was relieved to see that Basu has been convinced, since the dissident partners usually go to Basu with their complaints.

"After this, it is expected that the dust will have settled before the Left Front meeting of May 7," the sources said.