The political message that Mamata Banerjee sent out in the two-day Bengal Global Business Summit that ended on Thursday is a bigger take away than the investment proposals of ₹3.42 lakh crore it fetched.
The West Bengal chief minister not only took the opportunity to showcase her welfare-driven inclusive model of governance in front of industry leaders and foreign delegates but also took jibes at the Centre.
“We do not bulldoze anyone. We do not divide people. We want to unite people. Unity in diversity is our greatest strength. We can progress only through unity. United we stand, divided we fall,” Mamata Banerjee said in her valedictory speech in an apparent dig at the use of bulldozers to raze Muslim properties and houses in the name of clearing encroachment in some parts of the country.
She in her about 30-minute speech also called upon the participants to work for “humanity and peace.”
About 4,300 participants, including over 500 delegates from 42 countries participated in the two-day event wherein 137 memoranda of understanding and letter of intents were signed in sectors like infrastructure, logistic, capacity building etc.
While urging industry leaders to invest in Bengal, she hard-sold stability and safety, stating unity is the biggest strength of her state.
A dig at ‘bulldozer politics’
The political undertone in her speech was unmistakable against the backdrop of the growing communal tension in the country.
Bulldozer, the ubiquitous earth-moving machine, of late has become a symbol of BJP’s might against helpless minorities so much so that two of the party chief ministers earned sobriquets linked to the machine.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has been nicknamed “Bulldozer Baba” by his supporters. Taking a cue from UP, the BJP functionaries in Madhya Pradesh also bestowed the state’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan with the moniker “Bulldozer Mama” for effective use of the machine to raze Muslim houses and properties in the name of clearing encroachment or punishing suspected rioters.
The BJP-ruled North Delhi Municipal Corporation bulldozed “illegal” shops and structures in Muslim-dominated Jahangirpuri on Wednesday just three days after the area was hit by communal violence.
A day earlier while speaking at the inaugural day of the event, TMC supremo took a dig at another alleged strong-arm tactic of the BJP.
“Through Governor……..Your excellency, please don’t mind, on behalf of the industry, I want you to tell something….. They (industrialists) can’t open their mouths. Please raise the issue at the governor’s conference. Please tell Delhi not to disturb industrialists through some agencies,” she said.
That the chief minister was conveying the concerns of the India Inc. was evident from the loud applause her comment received.
Making a case for women
Apart from pitching communal harmony as a prerequisite for growth and development, the West Bengal government also chose the mega event to launch the expanded version of the state’s basic income support scheme for women in a bid to hold aloft its slew of social welfare schemes as an alternative model of development.
The expanded `Lakhir Bhandar’ (Lakshmi’s piggy bank) scheme launched by the chief minister on the inaugural day of the summit will cover 5 lakh more families.
She also gave detailed accounts of how the social welfare schemes such as Kanyashree, Swasthya Sathi, Lakhir Bhandar, Duare Sarkar empowered marginalised sections of the society.
Batting for Bengal’s welfare schemes
The state government’s successful implementation of social security schemes ensured that the state’s GDP achieved a positive growth rate of 1.2 per cent despite the pandemic in 2020-21, chief minister’s special advisor on finance Amit Mitra told the industry captains and foreign delegates.
In her Thursday’s valedictory speech, too, the chief minister reiterated the importance her government accords to social security, underscoring that 95 per cent of the state’s population get benefit of one or the other scheme.
She pointed out that some of these welfare schemes also received awards from the United Nations.
Industrialists Gautam Adani, Sajjan Jindal, Niranjan Hiranandani, Sanjeev Goenka and others lauded the government’s social sector initiatives in their speeches.
As for the investment, there have been big promises and proposals. Mamata Banerjee said if the proposals worth ₹3,42,375 crore received in the summit are materialised, it will create 40 lakh new jobs in the state.
The business proposals received in the earlier five editions of the summit amount to more than ₹12.35 lakh. There is no clarity on how much of that converted to actual investment.
Last year, Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had asked the state government to come out with a white paper on the actual investments that the state received as a result of five editions of BGBS.
He had alleged that ground reality belies the claims of their “resounding success.”