In the boldest step in his career, the chief minister Budhhadev Bhattacharya, unlocked the license for Metro Cash & Carry, consequent upon a warning issued by German Consul on 25th Sept’08 to stop German investment in Bengal if it failed to renew the license. It is worthwhile to mention that Metro Cash & Carry is a household name in Germany.
Bypassing the Forward Block, a Left Front partner in Bengal, who is the unquestioned master of the farm marketing system in Bengal, the chief minister took a most aggressive investor-friendly step in his career even risking a revolt in the Left Front itself in the middle of the Singur crisis.
In a stern warning, the ailing Secretary of Forward Block state Committee Ashok Ghose said, “We are opposed to renewal of license to Metro Cash & Carry because it will affect poor farmers. If the directive concerning the renewal is not withdrawn (by the chief minister), our ministers will resign.”
Incidentally Metro Cash & Carry was issued license first time in 2005 and since then it has invested Rs.120 crores. The license was renewed in 2006 and 2007 with validity till March 2008.
However the renewal was withdrawn on June 2008 on the plea that Metro halted construction under a stay from high court because of a dispute between the government and landowners. Agri- marketing committee, while withdrawing license at that time assured the company that they could apply again when construction resumed (after stay is vacated).
But going back on its words, the agri-marketing committee, under control of Forward Block, refused to issue renewal license after the stay was vacated and Metro was ready to open its 100000 square feet store by Puza (Bengali Mass festival of worshipping Goddess Durga for four days).
Here it is worthwhile to mention that the strength of Forward block is 23 in a 294-legislature house. The CPM has the strength of 175 and the left front as a whole 235 with combined opposition’s kitty being 58. So there is no imminent threat to CPM led front, but in a highly polarized Bengal things may change quickly and the next election of parliament will set in motion the direction in which Bengal likes to go- industrialization or orthodoxy.