Two of the best-known businessmen in India, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and Max India Chairman Analjit Singh, on Saturday gave a ringing endorsement to the Nitish Kumar government in Bihar. Acknowledging the state's resurgence in the last few years, they spoke of investments: Birla in cement and Singh in health care.
Birla had a chemicals factory in the undivided Bihar which has since gone into Jharkhand. Speaking at a plenary session in the morning, he talked of a Rs 500 crore cement branding unit which could be set up in Bihar.
"We wouldn't have thought of doing this a few years ago... Today, Bihar makes it to the shortlist of industrialists looking at investments," Birla said.
There was similar music to Bihari ears at the evening plenary attended by Singh, who said the state was like an extension of the National Capital Region, given its close links with the region.
Singh's Max Healthcare hospitals have 2,000 beds, all of them in NCR. However, in the last six months, he has signed up to set up two super speciality hospitals in Punjab - one in Bathinda and the other in Mohali - under public-private partnership (PPP).
"I just met the chief minister. He said there was no reason why similar PPP projects could not be done in Bihar," Singh said, adding that there was immense demand for private health care in the state despite the revival of government hospitals under Kumar. "The next time such a session is held, we will hopefully be able to host you in a world-class hospital," he said to a round of applause.
Birla however said Bihar would have to resolve its power problems if it were to attract serious industrial investments. The per capital consumption in the state is about 100 units, woefully below the national average of 770 units.
Solving the power problem is however easier said than done. Power plants can only be set up at huge costs, which have been going up with the rise in fuel prices.
That leaves the state with an old-fashioned chicken-and-egg conundrum.