FB not to leave LF, but cabinet if Buddha does not revoke his order

Updated: Sep 28 2008, 07:30am hrs
The Forward Bloc will not pull out of the Left Front but will only step down from the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee cabinet if the CPI(M) does not ask the chief minister to revoke his order of renewing licence to Metro Cash & Carry.

"We have decided to step down from the cabinet but that won't lead us to pull out of the Left Front. We would continue to be a Left Front partner as we are now," state agriculture and Forward Bloc minister Naren De told

FE.

The CPI(M) and Forward Bloc will meet on Sunday to discuss the renewal of the German company's licence. But the Bloc does not seem too optimistic about the meeting.

De said his party does not have any pre-conceived idea about the outcome of the meeting.

"Let's meet and see what happens. If the CPI(M) does not ask the chief minister to withdraw his order, we will step down from the Bhattacharjee cabinet as decided earlier," De said.

"We won't agree to any other option for settlement of the issue," he said.

The chief minister, bypassing the Forward Bloc, had ordered the agri-marketing committee on Friday to renew Metro Cash & Carry's licence under the West Bengal Agricultural Produce Marketing Act of 1972 within four days so that the German major can start business immediately.

The state had issued the APMC license to Metro Cash & Carry in 2006, which was valid till March 2008. But after that the Forward Bloc-controlled APMC board denied the company licence on the ground that it would affect the livelihood of thousands of small and medium traders.

Metro has plans to open four cash and carry centres in Kolkata at an investment of around Rs 570 crore that would create 1,400 direct and 600 indirect employment. It has already developed over 1 lakh sqft at the eastern bypass, under the jurisdiction of the South 24

Parganas district administration, and has so far invested Rs 140 crore, employing

350.

According to Forward Bloc state secretary Ashok Ghosh, there is no guarantee that the German firm will stick to the business-to-business model and not enter retail.

Metro Cash & Carry had given the state government a hundred-hour notice on September 25 to resolve the licence problem, failing which it threatened to pull out of the state.

Although De requested Metro Cash & Carry (India) managing director to wait for a decision till September 29, the chief minister issued his order on Friday.

Bhattacharjee ordered the district magistrate of South 24 Parganas to arrange for the issuance of the APMC licence to the German firm. This nullified all opposition of the Bloc.

However, the Bloc's decision to stay in the Left Front even as it has decided to step down from the state cabinet has weakened its power to mount pressure on the government, feel observers.