POLITICS

How Jaitley's Presence (Or Absence) At The Bengal Business Summit Could Make Or Break Bengal Politics

Jaitley's presence or absence at the BGMS, either way, will be significant.

11/01/2017 10:27 AM IST | Updated 11/01/2017 4:01 PM IST
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Central officers and their counterparts in the Bengal government are locked in a peculiar situation. As the political parties that run the Centre and Bengal government, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Trinamool Congress, lock horns over demonetisation, there's an atmosphere of uncertainty over the participation of Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in the Bengal Global Business Summit (BGBS).

State government officers in Bengal are waiting to hear from the office of Jaitley, who had participated in the summit in the past two years.

The BGBS -- its third edition this year -- is scheduled to take place between 20 and 21 January, and Jaitley has been invited. No confirmation from his side however, has come yet. According to a top officer of Bengal, confirmations from Union ministers usually come close to the programme date.

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But Jaitley's presence (or absence) is significant politically.

Only last week, Bengal's finance minister, Amit Mitra, had staged an angry walkout from a pre-Budget meeting presided by the Union finance minister. After emerging from the meeting, Mitra had said that there was "financial emergency" and a "political environment of fear" in the country.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi resign to take responsibility for the country-wide note ban. She is firm in her demand that the Central government be run by any other top leader of the BJP -- L.K Advani, Arun Jaitley or Rajnath Singh. Banerjee has been cleverly using her political tools to clarify that the sole object of her tirade is Modi alone. She also says that Modi is playing a totalitarian role in the BJP that many in his own party are also against, but are afraid to voice.

But Jaitley's presence (or absence) is significant politically.

Banerjee and her party members also are knocking on President Pranab Mukherjee's door on the demonetisation issue from time to time. Mukherjee, in fact, has been invited to inaugurate the BGBS this year, and an officer confirmed he will be here.

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Mamata has gone into a non-cooperation mode not only politically, but also on administrative issues. Mitra's walkout is indicative of that. Recently, the Bengal government refused to attend a tourism meet scheduled in Gujarat, to be inaugurated Modi. State tourism minister Gautam Deb stated that the decision to not participate in the meet was a mark of protest.

Will the Centre walk on the same non-cooperation path? Or will Jaitley choose to be magnanimous (also a definitive tool to insist that political parties may lock horns, but that should not come in the way of administrative matters) in this case?

Mamata Banerjee is firm in her demand that the Central government be run by any other top leader of the BJP – whether L.K Advani, Arun Jaitley or Rajnath Singh.

The BGBS was started in 2015 (it was held on 7 and 8 January that year), and was inaugurated by Banerjee; Jaitley was the chief guest, and Nitin Gadkari, Union minister for road transport, highway and shipping, was guest of honour.

The following year, Jaitley and Gadkari were both present for the BGBS's inauguration along with Suresh Prabhu, the Union railways minister, and Piyush Goyal, MOS (independent charge), power, coal and new and renewable energy. Also present was Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi CM, among others.

Under the circumstances, Jaitley's presence or absence at the BGMS, either way, will be significant.

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