As head of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Amit Mitra was once at the forefront of a campaign by Indian companies to liberalise the norms for foreign direct investment in retail. But as Finance Minister in Mamata Banerjee's West Bengal government, the industry lobbyist-turned politician has been forced to bite his tongue and even sing a different tune.
"There are deep concerns regarding the small and medium enterprises,” he is reported to have said in New Delhi on Monday on the issue of opening up the country’s retail sector to FDI.
Mr. Mitra's stand is a departure from the position he advocated in his FICCI days and has dismayed the corporate sector that saw him as a trusted representative,. However, political observers in West Bengal are not surprised at the u- turn. There are few if any, in the Mamata Banerjee-government who would dare to controvert the official line taken by the Trinamool Congress supremo.
Even as one of the major city-based corporate houses which has a presence in the retail sector had started formulating plans to take advantage of this big-ticket reform proposed by the Manmohan Singh government last week, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee made it clear that her government will thumb down any proposal involving 51 per cent FDI in the state’s retail sector.
The opposition to this proposal by Trinamool Congress and other opposition parties had been well known for quite sometime. “Our party has taken a decision not to allow FDI in retail in West Bengal. Of the 10 crore people in the state, nearly five crore are associated – either directly or indirectly – with retail. We cannot allow their interests to be affected. The state will have to look after their interests. We will not allow FDI in retail to come to West Bengal,” Ms. Banerjee has said.