Indian politician threatens multinationals such as Coke, Kellogg

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NEW DELHI -- A leading socialist politician, part of the Hindu nationalist alliance that is expected to form India's next government, has said the new administration would "create conditions" for the departure of multinationals from the country.

George Fernandes, leader of the Samata Party, said March 4 on state TV network Doordarshan that marketers such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kellogg, Suzuki, General Electric and General Motors had caused local job losses and were given more privileges than domestic companies.

Mr. Fernandes was taking part in a post-election panel discussion on India's most-viewed channel. He clarified, however, that the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition govern ment would not "drive out" multinationals.

Mr. Fernandes alleged that Pepsi's foray into local dry snack foods had rendered 200,000 work ers jobless in the northern Indian state of Rajas than. He took potshots at affluent Indians who could not "digest their breakfast without [multi national] cereal." He was referring to Kellogg, which launched four years ago in India.

The Hindu nationalist alliance, though not overtly against multinationals, has the backing of local industrialists threatened by foreign investment and technology.

An organized labor leader by practice, Mr. Fernandes was responsible for Coca-Cola's and IBM Corp.'s withdrawal from India in 1977, when he was the country's industry minister in the then Janata Party government. Both companies refused to scale down their holdings in the Indian sub sidiaries to the maximum 40% as demanded. Coca Cola even was asked to reveal Coke's formula.

Copyright March 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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