Almost four years after carting Tata Motors out to Gujarat, West Bengal has now invited the country’s largest carmarker, Maruti Suzuki, to set up base.

The ironic twist of events comes at a time when Maruti is facing its worst labour dispute at its Manesar plant and could be Mamata Banerjee’s best bet to shed West Bengal’s image of trade unionism.

In fact, this is a counter to Gujarat’s recent offer to become Maruti’s main base, in case it chooses to reduce its operations in Haryana.

A letter in this regard was sent earlier this week by West Bengal Commerce and Industries Minister Partha Chatterjee to top Maruti officials, including its Chairman R.C. Bhargava.

“Getting land is not a problem in West Bengal. The Government can provide land if we get a proposal from Maruti,” Chatterjee said, adding that the State Government was keenly observing the matter and was awaiting a response from the carmaker.

However, Maruti may not need to look at another location as its current capacity expansion plan sees it through till about 2020.

In June, it confirmed the first phase of a new Gujarat facility with Rs 4,000 crore investment on a 2.5-lakh-unit a year plant. Combined with the 18 lakh annual target capacity at Gurgaon and Manesar, this expansion will take total capacity to 2 million units by 2016.

“It is definitely good to see that West Bengal is getting aggressive about inviting investments from industry,” said Bhargava. However, he did not confirm or deny the development.

Maruti’s COO for Administration (HR, IT) S.Y. Siddiqui said that he hasn’t received any letter from the West Bengal Minister in the last few days. However, he had spoken to Partha Chatterjee on the sidelines of a conference in Kolkata in May.

“He had then been keen on Maruti investing in West Bengal. However, we have enough capacity addition plans for the next few years, so we are not looking for any other place,” he said.

roudra.b@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 3, 2012)
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