Frustrated by persisting resistance to the acquisition of land for building the world’s cheapest car, the soft-spoken Ratan Tata talked tough on Friday.
If the people of West Bengal feel “we should not be here or what we are trying to do should be altered… we would need to move,” he said.
Tata, who was here to chair group company Tata Tea’s annual general meeting, took the opportunity to air his frustration with political opposition to the project.
He said he is deeply concerned about the fate of the Rs 1,500 crore project, but would not hesitate to pull out from it if the safety of his employees was at risk.
“If anybody is under the impression… because of this investment we would not move, they are wrong,” he told reporters at an unscheduled press conference. “We would move.”
Linked to the Nano are not only the hopes for a Rs 1 lakh “people’s car”, but thousands of industrial jobs in a state where new investments in manufacturing have virtually come to a standstill.
His words set off a chain reaction with a senior leader of Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamul Congress — the biggest political opponent to the project — admitting that the statement “took us by surprise”. Mamata has planned a large protest outside the company’s site on Sunday.
On her part, the firebrand leader said she would not give up until some 400 acres — out of 997 acres leased to Tata Motors for the Nano project — acquired without consent, are returned to their owners.
Her political rival CPI-M, however, felt that Tata’s threat might work to the benefit of Left Front and isolate Mamata on the issue. The state government rushed its industry minister, Nirupam Sen, to Singur where he sought to rally support from local people.
“This is not a fight to save the factory. This is a movement to restore Bengal’s lost glory,” Tata said.