Maa, Mati, Manush and an opening for Obama
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Opposing FDI in retail at a rally last week, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told villagers the Centre's policies would leave them without food — "Obaba or Okaka or Ochacha will come here instead". The diatribe apparently directed at multinationals, America in particular, was ironic. For the past few months, the Mamata government has played host to a series of VIPs from America, enthused about the ouster of the Left and willing to work past the Trinamool leader's "pro-poor" proclamations which run counter to opening up of the economy. The latest to do so was US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell, who met Mamata on Monday.
Having learnt the ways of the Bengal CM, there was no word from the American side on what transpired at the nearly-45-minute meeting, while the TMC as usual kept its counsel. However, as political observers were quick to point out, what else could they have been talking about but FDI in multi-brand retail? The US seemed to have learnt its lesson from the May visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when the TMC regime had vehemently denied that the three-letter word came up during their meeting. A bemused Clinton, however, had let the cat out of the bag.
Now, while the Manmohan Singh government has given up trying to change Mamata's mind, the US seems willing to give it a shot. It has promised "investments in mutual interests" in the state and followed it up with visits by US business delegations, a steady interaction by its diplomats with Bengal officials and also invitations to state officials to visit the US.
Mamata has also invited US President Barack Obama for an event to mark the 100th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda's Chicago address.
Leader of the Opposition Surya Kanta Mishra says it's simple. Even as Mamata again raised the "Maa, Mati, Manush" rhetoric while pulling out of the UPA, he said her slogan should be "Maa Obama".
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