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Blackmail in Bengal

india Updated: Dec 21, 2006 00:05 IST

Here’s the Rs 1,000 crore question: what does Mamata Banerjee want? Ratan Tata has been sanguine about the Trinamool Congress leader’s over-the-top agitation against the Tata Motors project in Singur, West Bengal, by stating that he thinks that the lady means well and is simply “concerned about the people”. Unfortunately, Ms Banerjee’s damaging acts of agit-prop give us a different impression. This is the same politician who refused to attend the all-party meeting when the West Bengal government was yet to finalise the Tata Motors project. She also had little to say as an MP in Parliament about her reasons for opposing the project. In fact, it seems that she had been patiently waiting all the while for the Singur project to reach its final stage — with a bulk of the relocation and compensation package already disbursed — to start howling about the Left Front’s ‘wicked ways’. Somehow, we feel that her concern about returning to the state’s political centre-stage is what lies at the root of the agitation, and not her concern about the people of Singur.

How else can one explain Ms Banerjee’s outright rejection of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s overtures for a dialogue between the state government and the Trinamool-led camp opposing the Singur project? She seems to have given the game away when she announced that “it is doubtful if the CBI probe will be absolutely fair” after Mr Bhattacharjee complied with her earlier demand of having a CBI inquiry into the horrific murder of Tapasi Malik, an activist opposing the Tata Motors project. Ms Banerjee’s reason for rubbishing the inquiry: the CPI(M) supports the UPA government at the Centre. In other words, the Left Front is damned if it does, it is damned if it doesn’t.

If Ms Banerjee sincerely believes that by pouring fuel into the fire and by bringing a city to a standstill, even a small section of people will be benefited, she is clearly not sure enough to take the democratic path. Thus, the resort to desperate measures that spell blackmail. More importantly, by blocking the Tata Motors project, does Mamata Banerjee really expect the condition of the people of Singur — and by extension, of West Bengal — to improve? The brutal fact is that after everyone has forgotten about ‘Singur’, Singur will languish in its current state. Unless, that is, industry is allowed to supplement the town’s extremely meagre agricultural diet.