<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Gujarat’s apex body for trade and business, Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), has been embroiled in a fresh controversy which puts forward questions about the political neutrality of the prestigious body.Former GCCI President Bipin Patel has alleged that he was pressurised and was guided by political forces in Gandhinagar to cancel the lecture by Former Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram that was held at GCCI auditorium on Tuesday.GCCI President Shailesh Patwari denied the charge and said that while he is associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he has treated both BJP and Congress at par as the President of GCCI.Elections to Gujarat Legislative Assembly are to be held in December and it is prestigious for both BJP and Congress to win in the state. Both the parties are sending galaxy of leaders to woe voters.”Patwari had called me that he has pressure from political forces to cancel the lecture of P Chidambaram. As a former president, I am entitled to book the facility. I did not succumb to any pressure,” Patel told DNA.Patwari denied that he had called Patel under guidance of political leaders to cancel the programme and that office bearers of GCCI were told not to attend the function. “GCCI has a policy of maintaining equal distance with political parties. GCCI office bearers had even welcomed former Union Finance Minister. He is a man of substance and his speech was on economy and not political. Political speeches are not allowed in GCCI premises,” said Patwari. He alleged that Patel is making these allegations as he failed to get favourable response from business community and that only a handful of people had attended the lecture.Patel denied and said that the auditorium was fully packed and well attended.Since Diwali, this is the third time that GCCI has to encounter allegations of taking political stand. At a meeting of GCCI members on November 4, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani had urged the business community to support BJP in elections. Making available GCCI platform for political purpose was criticized by sections of GCCI. Even Patwari acknowledges that while Rupani made a political speech, he had appealed to businessmen to vote in general and not to any political party.Later on November 7, there were allegations that GCCI had denied Former Prime Manmohan Singh the auditorium to deliver his speech. The auditorium of Sardar Patel Memorial was then used for Singh’s lecture. Patwari denied that and said that GCCI auditorium is small and Congress had anticipated a higher turnout so they voluntarily shifted the venue. “GCCI had not denied the venue, a fact acknowledged by Congress spokesmen as well,” he said.ALLEGATIONSFormer GCCI President Bipin Patel has alleged that he was pressurised by political forces in Gandhinagar to cancel the lecture by former finance minister P Chidambaram

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‘Poll’-itical Tug-of-War at GCCI