After a resolute fight to bring Tata Motors and Special Economic Zones (SEZs) to Kolkata, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is showing signs of cracking up. At a Left Front meeting on Thursday, Bhattacharjee gave in to the CPI(M)’s belligerent allies and said he would not set up any SEZs in the state “if that is what the Left parties want”.
With Singur erupting after a three-week lull, the chief minister also said he would call off his public meeting there on February 15.
“I will do nothing in violation of what our four Left parties decide on SEZs. If necessary, I will step back,” Bhattacharjee told CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc leaders after they told him that their parties were against the very concept of SEZs as vehicles of growth.
During the meeting, the CPI(M)’s three allies also told the chief minister that they were opposed to his idea of relaxing land ceiling rules in the state for the sake of industrialisation. Though the chief minister and the CPI(M)’s Land Reforms Minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah argued that the amendment to the West Bengal Land Reforms Act to help relax the ceiling had become necessary, particularly for the Salim Group’s projects, the CPI(M)’s allies told them that their parties would not accept the plan, which, they said, would bring back the zamindari system.
The CPI, RSP and Forward Bloc also criticised the government’s handling of Singur and Nandigram, finally forcing the chief minister to admit that the local administration had goofed up, particularly in Nandigram.
“The Haldia Development Authority failed to understand the situation. They know nothing. Yet they issued a notification that 27 mouzas would be acquired in Nandigram. Their mistake sparked off the trouble,” the chief minister said. “How can I acquire areas where there are temples, mosques and houses? What is the point in development if the people don’t support it? After all, development is for the people,” he said.
The chief minister said his government would prepare a land bank and a map of the state within two weeks - an indication that he was planning to go slow on the land acquisition move.