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Communists are not against reforms, says Buddhadeb

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, MAY 29. The West Bengal Chief Minister, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, called on the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, here today and said it was a "courtesy call." They discussed the Common Minimum Programme of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government at the Centre and related issues.

Speaking to correspondents later, Mr. Bhattacharjee dispelled the notion that Communists were not in favour of economic reforms and emphasised that the West Bengal Government had invited and received foreign direct investment, especially in the field of Information Technology and Communications. "Communists are not fools. They are not against reforms. What we want is what the Prime Minister has said about reforms with a human face," Mr. Bhattacharjee said in response to a question whether the Left parties were against economic reforms.

West Bengal had received the maximum foreign direct investment from Japan with leading organisations such as Mitsubishi planning to come in a big way. Similarly, the IT giant, IBM, which already had software facilities in the State, was going ahead with a major expansion programme.

On his meeting with Dr. Singh, Mr. Bhattacharjee said he had not come with a charter of demands and that he was not the one to ask for packages but would approach the Centre if the State had any specific problem.

He had discussed the "success stories" of West Bengal with the Prime Minister. While it could not be said that West Bengal had a model policy that the Centre should follow since national policies had a wider perspective, yet the State's suggestions on agriculture and land reforms, besides the progress it made in the IT and Communications sectors, were mentioned.

On State-related issues, Mr. Bhattacharjee said his Government has begun discussions with Central leaders, including the Defence Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, and the Water Resources Minister, Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, on the Ganga-Padma erosion and the problems of the jute mills, among other issues.

On the statement of the Coal and Mines Minister, Shibhu Soren, that he would try and shift the Coal India headquarters from Kolkata to Ranchi, Mr. Bhattacharjee preferred not to comment.

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