The second edition of the biennial investors’ conclave- ‘Make in Odisha’ proved to be a spectacular success. The sheer scale of the event, footfalls to the gaudy stalls and top notch corporate honchos sharing the dais with the chief minister and volume of fresh investment intents the state pocketed are testimony to the conclave’s phenomenal success. Investors pledged Rs 4.19 lakh crore across sectors on a state whose pace of economic growth has overshot the national average consistently. And, with a conversion ratio of intents bettering other investor friendly destinations such as Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Telangana, Odisha has vindicated its choice amongst the existing and prospective investors.
But there is a but. The mega showpiece event had its own share of lacuna. What was lost in the glitter of the ceremony and muffled up by crescendo of corporate announcements was a touch of inclusiveness. This loophole was striking compared with the inaugural run of the investment summit. When the Odisha government staged the maiden edition of the conclave, it partnered the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP). Both the ‘Make in Odisha’ and ‘Make in India’ campaigns ran concomitantly. Besides inspiring the confidence of investors and a galaxy of corporate leaders, the partnership sent positive vibes to stakeholders across the spectrum. Finance minister Arun Jaitley graced the show as the Guest of Honour. It was a spectacle which bared the collective strength of Odisha and the Centre, the hallmark of a federal structure.
However, the federal spirit was conspicuously lacking during this edition’s event. What went haywire? Did the Odisha government deliberately ignore the importance of the presence of Central ministers and officials? Did politicking and posturing take precedence over the bigger causes of investment and progress? The Opposition parties got enough ammunition to fire salvo at the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) for attempting to garner political dividends out of an investment centric show. Allegations even flew that the BJD ruled government was repackaging older investments to inflate the figure. Hindsight evidences the role of Union petroleum ministry in bringing two big ticket investors- CPC from Taiwan and Haldia Petrochemicals to Odisha. Both turned out to be amongst the largest investors at Make in Odisha 2.0.
If Opposition sneered at the BJD for slipshod management of ‘Make in Odisha’, there was disquiet within the ruling party as well. Scores of BJD ministers and legislators were sulking as top officials in industries department cold shouldered them for the event. Barring industries minister Ananta Das, the show lacked the participation of the political fraternity. Even the Leader of Opposition went uninvited. In Naveen Patnaik’s rule, the all powerful bureaucracy is turning out to be imperious. Ministers have played second fiddle to babus who have been calling the shots. But, gradually, the growing clout of such babus enjoying the unconditional patronage of the chief minister, is pushing the ministers and MLAs to the shadows of anonymity. The phenomenon does not bode well for a democratically elected government, especially the one which is winning decisive and stronger mandate from the voters in poll after poll.
This edition of the conclave also raised the hackles of home grown entrepreneurs. While the Birla, Ambanis and Adanis hogged the limelight, the puny but job creating entrepreneur got blissfully sidetracked. “The conclave belied our expectations. We were not offered any opportunity to air our views or share success stories”, says a local entrepreneur with simmering discontent. His peers may be echoing similar thoughts though they may never go on record, perhaps to avoid a murky confrontation with the powers that be. As we write this, Sanjeev Chopra & company will be performing a post mortem of the conclave. And should they read this piece, they realise the many dots that failed to connect. As they gear up for Make in Odisha 3.0 in 2020, they ought to right many wrongs and reclaim that inclusive touch.