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Modi locks adoring business in bear hug

Modi locks adoring business in bear hug

Author: Bureau
Publication: The Telegraph
Date: January 13, 2009
URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com/1090113/jsp/frontpage/story_10382686.jsp

Tata leads the charge in showering praise

Breathe easy, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. Forget Nandigram, forget toxic air, forget the roasting your government gets in court every now and then. All will be forgiven if you can give land in two days.

Narendra Modi has done that and put behind him what was once seen as an indelible blot: the riots of 2002.

Ratan Tata today drenched the chief minister in praise at an investor meet, holding Modi and his state up as a model for the rest of the country. By the time Tata was through, the industrialist found himself locked in a hug with Modi who strode across the podium with open arms.

"I have to say that today there is no state like Gujarat. Under Modi's leadership, Gujarat is head and shoulders above any state," Tata, who last year moved his small-car project from Bengal to Gujarat, told the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit in Ahmedabad.

Tata said a state would normally take 90 to 180 days to clear a new plant "but in the Nano case, we had our land and approval in just two days". In his "humble experience, it had never happened before", Tata added, seizing another opportunity to extol the "speed and transparency" with which Modi worked.

The Bengal CPM, still hurting from the Nano's shift to the turf of its bete noire, tried to shrug off "the humble experience". "We are not dear to Tata or near to him as Modi is," party state secretariat member Benoy Konar said in Calcutta. "They share the same class of politics. Tata came here in his own interest."

He added: "When Tata came to Bengal with the Nano project, he praised our government too. But that hardly matters to us. What hurts us is that industry could not come up here."

Others at the two-day summit that teemed with the A-listers of Indian industry were equally effusive as Tata. "To become an economic superpower," Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumarmangalam Birla said, "India needs many Narendra Modis."

It all sounded a far cry from 2002, when industry bosses had wondered if the Gujarat riots would hurt India's global image as an investment destination. In April that year, at a Confederation of Indian Industry meet in Delhi, then Thermax chairperson Anu Aga had confronted Modi with the accounts of rape and murder she had heard from inmates at a Gujarat relief camp.

Today, business leaders tripped over each other to commit their money to Gujarat as the summit saw MoUs worth Rs 382,675 crore signed on its first day.

Among those that signed deals were two investors with ties to Bengal: Prasoon Mukherjee's Universal Success Ltd and Mahendra K. Jalan's Keventer Agro.

Mukherjee has promised to pump Rs 87,000 crore over the next 10 years into a 10,000MW power plant, a commercial port and an industrial cluster. Jalan plans to invest Rs 115 crore in three agro-processing projects.

"Gujarat has shown how to bring investment during an economic slowdown. The government has taken an equity in our project, deferred payment of land price to reduce the burden on the promoter, apart from providing tax sops and full infrastructure support," Jalan said.

Mukherjee praised the "excellent response" from Gujarat and said "the encouraging investment climate in the state" had emboldened him to commit the big bucks.

Mukesh Ambani said the investment rush showed how much "approval" Modi enjoyed in India and abroad, from where 37 countries sent 500-odd delegates.

Even some from the western world appeared eager to be impressed by a riot-tainted politician whom the US had denied a visa. British MP Barry Gardiner, going a step ahead of Tata, said: "Gujarat can lead the world."

There seemed a glint in Modi's eyes as he claimed that Gujaratis have an inborn ability to turn adversity into opportunity. He gave his own formula for success: RACE -- R for low risk, A for alertness of the people, C for low cost and E for efficiency.

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