Kolkata: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday made friendly overtures to Mamata Banerjee ’s Trinamool Congress party while addressing business leaders and professionals in Kolkata.
West Bengal faces “discriminatory treatment” from the central government for not being ruled by a constituent of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), Modi said.
The likely prime ministerial candidate of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2014 general election, Modi’s barbs were aimed at the ruling coalition in New Delhi and the Left Front, and not at the Trinamool Congress, which now rules West Bengal.
Although Modi was expected to talk about his vision for growth at an event organized by three business lobby groups, his speech was more political in content.
“I have not come here to compare the activities of the West Bengal government with that of Gujarat,” Modi said in his hour-long speech. “What you see in Gujarat today are fruits of at least 10 years of efforts to fill up the holes that my predecessors had left, not of two years. I am told similar efforts are also being made here to fill up the holes left by the previous government.”
The Trinamool Congress came to power in West Bengal in 2011, ending the 34-year rule of the Left Front, which is opposed to the Hindu nationalist BJP and the National Democratic Alliance it leads.
On a day Banerjee was lobbying with the Planning Commission in Delhi for greater allocation of funds for development in West Bengal, Modi said Gujarat was also facing similar discriminatory treatment, but it could cope better than the eastern state because he had time to rebuild.
From a revenue deficit of Rs.6,700 crore 12 years ago, when he took over as the chief minister, Gujarat now is a revenue surplus state, Modi said, built on “three pillars of economy”—agriculture, industry and services—and not just the “entrepreneurial drive” of Gujaratis.
Later at a lunch with select businessmen, Modi said India should be bracing for another coalition government at the centre. Regional parties such as the Trinamool Congress are only going to get stronger, Modi said, according to people who were at the lunch with him. These businessmen and professionals declined to be named.
Among those who had lunch with Modi were Saroj Poddar, chairman, Adventz Group, Roopen Roy, managing director, Deloitte and Touche Consulting India Pvt. Ltd, M.K. Jalan, chairman MKJ Enterprises, A.V. Lodha, partner, Lodha and Co., G.P. Goenka, chairman, Duncans Goenka Group, C.S. Nopany, chairman of Oudh Sugar Mills Ltd, J.P. Chowdhary, chairman, Titagarh Wagons Ltd and Vishambhar Saran, chairman, Visa Steel Ltd.
For any coalition government, the numbers are most important, he told his audience at the lunch. The ruling UPA government was in a “policy paralysis” because it did not have the numbers on the floor of Parliament to take necessary decisions, Modi said, repeating several times that he did not expect the Congress-led government to be in office till the end of its term next year.
Kolkata’s businessmen and professionals were all praise for his political vision.
“This interaction was very different from the usual ones with politicians because of his clarity of vision,” said one of the people cited above. “He appears to be so grounded in reality.”
At another meeting with BJP workers, Modi continued to attack prime minister Manmohan Singh saying that he wasn’t even accepted universally within the Congress party as the leader. “There is disagreement within the (Congress) party over power centres,” Modi said. “A change of battery will not help the vehicle to move.”