Kolkata: Mukesh Ambani’s Rs2,000-crore agri-retail project in West Bengal has run into problems with veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu and a number of constituents of the state’s ruling Left Front coming out against the venture.
“We are opposed to the way it (the Reliance project) is being done. It has created a lot of problems between us and it needs to be discussed by the party Central Committee and Politburo before a decision is taken,” the 93-year-old Marxist leader said after the weekly meeting of the CPI-M.
A few hours after Basu’s comments, three key constituents of the Left Front — Forward Bloc, RSP and CPI — too opposed the project after holding separate meetings, signalling that it would not be easy for the venture, which apparently has the blessings of Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, to take off.
Basu, who still wields considerable clout in the Front, said the Reliance project would harm small traders. “We have not come to a definite conclusion on this. But we will not do anything which will hurt the interest of people.”
He said the CPI-M was opposed to the entry of FDI and big business in agri-retail.
Forward Bloc general secretary Ashoke Ghosh said his party was strongly opposed to the entry of big capital into agri-retail and small trade. “We want the Left Front to take a decision opposing the entry of big houses into small trade and agri-retail,” he told PTI.
The Forward Bloc, which controls the state agriculture department, will initiate bilateral discussions with other Left Front constituents like the CPI-M, CPI and RSP on this issue, Ghosh said.
Echoing similar sentiments, the CPI and RSP too expressed their opposition to the entry of big capital into small trade and hinted that Reliance should not be allowed to launch its operations in West Bengal.
Mukesh Ambani had announced the agri-retail project in West Bengal jointly with Chief Minister Bhattacharjee immediately after assembly polls last year.
But even after 10 months, the project is yet to take off as state marketing board, controlled by the Forward Bloc, has refused to issue a licence to the company for starting operations though it has opened nearly 80 to 90 Reliance Fresh stores across the country.
The state marketing board has also said it will launch its own agri-retail stores named Bengal Fresh.
The setback for Reliance in West Bengal comes in the wake of stiff resistence to Tata Motors’ small car project in Singur and violent protests against the acquisition of land in Nandigram for setting up a chemical hub and SEZ by Indonesia’s Salim Group. The state government was forced by the protests to scrap the project in Nandigram.