With a “bone to pick with Ratan Tata”, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is headed to Mumbai to seek investments from industry and corporates for his state….writes Jaideep Sarin
Having taken over the reins on March 16, following the Congress’s resounding victory in the assembly elections, Amarinder is faced with the daunting task of rescuing Punjab from a severe debt situation, flight of industry, utter lack of jobs and low enthusiasm for industrial investment.
“Even before we won the elections, some industrialists had told me that they would be ready to invest (in Punjab) if we (Congress) come to power,” Amarinder had said last month after taking over.
Sources in the Punjab government said that Amarinder and his team would try to woo big corporate houses like Reliance and others to announce investments in Punjab.
The Chief Minister will begin his three-day Mumbai trip on Monday. Accompanied by some of his ministers and top bureaucrats, Amarinder will have “one-on-one” interactions with nearly a dozen industry and corporate leaders, official sources said here.
The focus areas would be sectors like manufacturing, food processing, pharmaceuticals, engineering and information technology.
Within days of coming to power, Amarinder Singh has already met Japanese Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu and Mitsubishi Corporation Managing Director Kazunori Konishi.
Adani Group President and Chairman of several key companies of the Gujarat-based group, Pranav Adani, met Amarinder here last week to discuss possible areas of investment in Punjab.
“Investment is important for Punjab as the Congress manifesto has promised hundreds of thousands of jobs, smartphones and other things to the people,” a ruling party legislator said.
But things are not going to be easy for the Chief Minister and his government in terms of immediate returns.
Amarinder’s past experience with industry has not been good, and his recently-released authorised biography, “The People’s Maharaja” by Khushwant Singh (not to be confused with the literary icon), throws light on this — in his own words.
“Amarinder Singh did not mince his words: I have a bone to pick with Ratan Tata. He gave me a commitment to invest and then backed out of it. I didn’t expect this from Ratan Tata, especially after he had shaken hands at the Taj Hotel, Chandigarh, where we met for lunch,” the author has written.
“Tata was expecting too much, which the state could ill afford,” close aide Suresh Kumar, who is the most powerful bureaucrat in Amarinder’s present government, was quoted as saying in the book on the March 2006 meeting.
In his previous tenure (2002-07), the Amarinder Singh government had rolled out some big-ticket projects, like the Farm-to-Fork project with Reliance, to show industrial investment in Punjab. After the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP alliance government took over in the state in 2007, the project fizzled out.
Amarinder had then accused the Akali Dal government of deliberately scuttling the project.