Partymen to meet them at Siliguri on Friday

It seems to be Holi time for the Trinamool Congress, which is reaching out in a big way to the business community at a time when the presence of the Bharatiya Janata Party is looming large on the horizon.

Partymen are meeting up with the business community at Siliguri on Friday at a gathering organised to celebrate the festival of colours.

The TMC has been trying to shed the anti-industry tag, which it acquired in the aftermath of the Singur agitation and the withdrawal of the Tata small car project, ever since it was catapulted to the centre-stage of national politics after the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.

Ms. Banerjee has held confidence-building exercises with corporate big-wigs time and again.

However the underlying objective of those informal meets over sumptuous dinner and mishti doi was to lure them to open their moneybags wide for the State.

This time round, however, the Trinamool Congress’ compulsions are slightly different. It is the Narendra Modi wave now sweeping the country, and nowhere is this felt more strongly than among entrepreneurs, traders and merchants.

Says a Marwari industrialist who spoke on condition of anonymity, :“The Marwaris especially, and the trading and businessmen class, have traditionally voted for either the Congress or the BJP.”

Little surprise then that, soon after kicking off her first meeting of party supporters last week, Ms. Banerjee met up with a section of the city’s businessmen on the occasion of Holi celebrations, but the undercurrent was not lost on anyone. The exercise is now being extended to the State’s northern business hub in Siliguri, where a Holi meeting has been organised. It would be attended by Amit Mitra, Finance and Industry minister. Both the meetings have been organised under the aegis of the International Marwari Federation, which describes itself as body of Marwaris from across the globe.

However, it was a moot question whether the bonhomie of Ms. Banerjee or the cordiality of her erudite Finance Minister is likely to translate into votes, as conversations with a cross-section of the Siliguri business community revealed.

“We no longer feel like a stepson.. A lot of initiatives have been rolled out by Ms. Banerjee .. the youth of the hills identify with the TMC candidate Bhaichung Bhutia.. But whether the business community will send TMC in large numbers to the Centre.. is a very moot question.”