Ratan Tata has virtually given the West Bengal administration an ultimatum. He wants a congenial atmosphere in Singur for his plant to function, or else the Nano project will be moved out of the state. He has clearly indicated that if he does pull out, the blame will lie entirely with Mamata Banerjee.
Threats do not usually bother Mamata — and nor have they done this time. All the more because she has already gained politically from the combative position she has taken on the Tata plant. The Singur issue is a political battle for her, which has to be sustained till the imminent Lok Sabha elections.
She got a drubbing in both the last West Bengal elections and the last Lok Sabha poll. In the former the Trinamool Congress's strength was reduced from 60 to 30 in a house of 294. In the latter, her performance was such that she presently leads an ‘all India party’ which has precisely one MP in the Lok Sabha — herself.
“It is the state government’s mishandling of both Nandigram and Singur that has provided us much-needed oxygen to revive,” one of her aides admitted frankly. Mamata took up the cause of the peasants and the effort has yielded quick results.
In the panchayat polls this year, Trinamool swept Nandigram and Singur, while the CPM suffered major reverses. Mamata cannot let go this golden chance to consolidate her political future. No doubt, by opposing the Nano, she is sacrificing whatever middle class support her party had. Clearly she does not mind doing so.
Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s lack of foresight is also becoming evident. He promised talks on Singur with Mamata when the latter was on a 26-day hunger strike way back in December 2006. “But he was not serious. No talks were ever held,” the Mamata aide pointed out.
So, what next in West Bengal? No one knows but there is no doubt that the state has lost out in projecting itself as a brand that is conducive for industrialisation.