Tata Motor’s ambitious Nano project got a shot in the arm on Wednesday with Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani throwing his weight behind what he described as “a unique initiative” to turn India into a global hub for small cars.
In an unusual move, Ambani issued a statement to the media, warning that attempts to derail the Nano project would do as much harm to the country’s economy as to its image abroad.
His comments came as protests and a blockade outside the Nano site in Singur entered the fourth day and Mamata Banerjee threatened a statewide bandh on Friday.
Samajwadi Party’s Amar Singh, a known Anil Ambani ally, had joined the Trinamool Congress, on the day she launched her agitation.
“A fear psychosis is being created to slow down certain projects of national importance,” he said. “The Indian industry must be encouraged to make such large investments in order to build the country’s competitiveness.”
While trade bodies such as the FICCI and the Confederation of Indian Industry have come out in support of the Nano project, Ambani’s comments underscored the growing unease among businesses over getting caught in the crossfire between political rivals.
Ambani has also been at the receiving end of such rivalries.Months after he signed up with the West Bengal government to make the state a procurement hub for farm goods for Reliance Retail, his stores were stoned and shut down.
In Uttar Pradesh, Reliance Retail was forced to roll back plans following protests by political groups. Ambani's plan to set up a special economic zone in Haryana, which was cleared by the party now in power, is also facing resistance from opposition parties.
"The Indian industry and the political leadership need to work together to deliver on the aspirations of the millions of Indians in urban and rural areas," Ambani said
Meanwhile, the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation has called a meeting on Thursday with top officials from Tata Motors and vendors. The meeting is expected to discuss a refurbished compensation package that the state government is formulating for the displaced farmers.
"The issue can only be resolved through discussion and we have been asked by Tata Motors to attend the meeting," said Ramesh Suri, chairman of Subros Ltd., which makes cooling solutions for cars and has tied up with the Nano project.
An official at Tata Motors said the company remained hopeful that the government would be able to get the protesters on board. The company on Wednesday released pictures of its almost-ready plant in Singur.
"We are fully on track to roll out Nano in the October-December quarter as already announced," said Debasis Ray, spokesman of Tata Motors. "The plant is nearly complete and the photographs have been released today to clarify our position."
The caption on the pictures read: "Ready to Roll."