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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06CALCUTTA244 2006-05-27 11:11:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Consulate Kolkata
Cable title:  

WEST BENGAL CHIEF MINISTER BUDDHADEB BHATTACHARJEE FACES

Tags:   PGOV EIND EINV SOCI IN 
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RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA 1196
					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CALCUTTA 000244 

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EIND EINV SOCI IN
SUBJECT: WEST BENGAL CHIEF MINISTER BUDDHADEB BHATTACHARJEE FACES
CRITICISM FROM HIS PARTY

REF: CALCUTTA 00195



1. (SBU) Summary: In the April-May West Bengal (WB) state
assembly elections, the Left Front emerged victorious for the
seventh consecutive time with an overwhelming 235 out of 294
seats. The Communist Party of India - Marxist (CPM) under the
leadership of Chief Minister (CM) Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee
consolidated its position within its Left Front alliance by
achieving an outright majority of seats on its own.
Contributing to the Left's success was its highly fragmented
opposition, the CPM's organizational strength, and strong
popular approval of the economic reforms initiated in recent
years by CM Bhattacharjee (Reftel). The election results
appeared to be strong mandate for Bhattcharjee's policies and
only a few days into his new government, he was able to announce
significant new investments. However, Bhattacharjee's party and
Left allies appear intent on undercutting him. Bhattacharjee
was unable to choose his own Cabinet Ministers, with some
figures like controversial Transport Minister Subhas Chakrabarty
reportedly returning at the insistence of former CM and
nonagenarian Jyoti Basu. State CPM General Secretary Biman Basu
publicly criticized the media for what he characterized as
"going overboard on projecting Brand Buddha." In ConGen's May
25 meeting with CM Bhatacharjee, the CM enthusiastically
described his plans for seeking investment but refused to
comment on support from his party for his economic reform
efforts. The pre-election solidarity of the Left Front and its
leadership appears to be cracking in the face of growing
irritation with CM Bhattacharjee's strong personal popularity
and his successes at attracting investment. End Summary.



2. (U) The May 11 results of West Bengal's 294-seat state
legislative assembly elections brought a landslide victory for
the CPM and its Left allies. The Left Front won 235 seats and
returned to power for the seventh consecutive term since 1977.
The dominant CPM won 176 seats on its own, giving it a clear
majority in the legislature, and making it less dependent on its
Front partners. The failure of opposition parties, the Congress
(Congress), the Trinamul Congress (Trinamul) and the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP), to create a grand alliance split the
anti-Left vote. Factional feuds in the Congress and the weak
organization of Trinamul, under the erratic leadership of Member
of Parliament Mamata Banerjee, exacerbated the opposition's
divisions. The Congress' dismal performance prompted Defense
Minister Pranab Mukherjee to resign from his post as State
Congress President.



3. (U) The support for the Left extended from rural to urban
populations and even cut across class lines. CM Bhattacharjee's
economic reform policies, efforts at industrialization and
wooing of investments over the past five years enabled the Left
to expand its support base. After announcement of the election
results, the CM identified three basic tasks for his new
government: to maintain the achievements in agriculture,
sustain the industrialization process, attract more investment,
and to encourage economic development to help those below the
poverty line.



4. (U) In just the first few days of his new government,
Bhattacharjee saw tangible results in his efforts to attract
investment. On the day of the final vote count, Tata CEO Ratan
Tata announced his intention to established a USD 220 million
Tata Motors factory in West Bengal to manufacture Tata's planned
one lakh rupee (USD 2,200) car for India's growing middle class.
Tata's announcement was quickly followed by Videocon CEO
Venugopal Dhoot announcing his company's intention to invest USD
200 million to set up a LCD monitor factory and a 4 million
sq/ft IT park. Dhoot told the media after a meeting with the
CM, "Across all our facilities, we want to create 25,000 jobs
in the state in the next 2-3 years." Chief Secretary Amit Kiran
Deb and Commerce and Industry Secretary Sabyasachi Sen will go
to the United States on June 4 to prepare a possible visit by
the CM. The two Secretaries will travel to New York City, White
Springs, West Virginia and Washington, D.C. They will seek
infrastructure investment in New York, meet with chemical and
petro-chemical companies in West Virginia and the National
Association of Manufacturers in Washington, D.C.

CALCUTTA 00000244 002 OF 002





5. (SBU) However, Bhattacharjee's success seems to be breeding
resentment within his party. He was unable to influence the
selection of some of his key cabinet members. Former WB CM and
Politburo Member Jyoti Basu appeared to have forced the
retention of Transport Minister Subhas Chakrabarty and Finance
Minster Dr. Asim Dasgupta, among others. Chakrabarty's staying
on was seen as a setback for the CM while he is trying to
improve the state's infrastructure, as Chakrabarty is perceived
as corrupt, incompetent and he had won his constituency with
just a slim margin. However, he is a Basu favorite. On May 26
Basu was openly critical of CM Bhattacharjee, claiming that the
CM poorly handled the Tata representatives' recent visit to the
site of the propose car factory. Local villagers blocked the
vehicles of the Tata and state government officials at the site
in Singur to protest the possible sale of their land for the
factory. Basu told the media that he upbraided the Chief
Minister for the demonstration, "I asked Buddha why proper
ground work was not done before the visit." Other unhappy Left
Front partners are calling for an emergency meeting on May 29 to
discuss the issue of converting agricultural land to industrial
projects. WB CPM General Secretary Biman Basu also piled-on and
strongly criticized the media's excessive adulation of the CM
saying in a May 26 press conference, "The media has gone
overboard in projecting 'Brand Buddha.'" CPM mouthpiece
"Ganashakti" has carried articles claiming that the Left's
electoral victory results from the party's ideology and work,
implying that 'Brand Buddha' should not get the entire credit.
"The Asian Age" reported on May 27 that "Party insiders said
that Alimuddin Street (CPM headquarters) satraps felt that the
media's focus on the Chief Minister may prove detrimental for
the party in the future."



6. (SBU) On May 25, ConGen met CM Bhattacharya to congratulate
him on his success in the elections. The Chief Minister spoke
enthusiastically of his recent efforts in attracting investment
and his interest in developing petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals,
medical equipment and infrastructure projects in the state.
When asked whether he intended to visit the U.S., Bhattacharjee
said he would visit only when he had assurance of some concrete
investments and mentioned that he has been in contact with
former Ambassador Frank Wisner. However, when ConGen asked
whether the CM's work was supported by his party, he became
unresponsive and quickly ended the meeting.



7. (SBU) Comment: The public consensus in West Bengal is that
the CPM and Left Front's success in the assembly election is
directly attributable to CM Bhattacharjee. Announcements by
Tata, Videocon and others of plans to invest in the state
because of the CM's efforts only reinforce this impression.
However, instead of being praised by his party and allies, CM
Bhattacharjee is experiencing the principle that success breeds
resentment and resentment breeds hate. Rather than receiving a
clear mandate from the election results, the CM's victory may
serve to isolate him from his party and create resistance to his
initiatives.
JARDINE