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Before Mamata, there were those other chaps

india Updated: Sep 08, 2008 22:39 IST
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The Tatas have not yet made it clear if they are staying put or going from Singur. After Sunday’s ‘rapprochement’ between the West Bengal government and the Mamata Banerjee-led agitators, it seems that the Tatas will have to let go of a few hundred acres from the Tata Nano factory premises. But the 300-odd acres of land to be doled out to farmers who are against selling their land has turned out to be the political pie that was sliced, with the help of Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, between the two warring parties. From one angle, Banerjee seems to have triumphed. But from another, it seems that Ratan Tata’s earlier ‘we’re out if we’re not wanted’ speech has made an impact.

If the Tatas do pull out of Singur, it will be a huge setback for Bengal's industrial drive. If that happens though, Bengal’s Marxists should still find a silver lining in the cloud. After all, it is their faith that has now found a new evangelist in Mamata Banerjee. By chasing away the Tatas — even as she says that she has no intention of chasing away the Tatas at any point — Banerjee would accomplish exactly what the Marxists have accomplished with aplomb over 30 years. Lest one forgets by the starched figure of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the CPI(M)-led Left Front has been past masters of every trick in the book to intimidate, obstruct and enrage industrial capital. So before one despairs of West Bengal turning into an industrial wasteland, let us remember one thing: West Bengal is already an industrial wasteland thanks to non-Trinamool forces.

Things started taking a turn ten years ago when the CPI(M) desperately started playing wooer. It was around then that Banerjee saw profit to be made in this ‘unholy’ communist-capital matrimony. What model of attack did she choose? Why the Left one, of course. Banerjee heartily started appropriating the lumpen proletariat bred by the comrades. She brought back that good old ’70s revolutionary hymn of land being sacrosanct and land rights being primal.

So the ‘Sunday deal’ can be interpreted either way. Either we see Banerjee as being more powerful than ever before. Or Bhattacharjee redeeming much of his Nandigram sins and having the urban middle class rally behind him once again.

As for the Tatas, well, don’t they also make steel?