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Nano and the political impact

Never before in Bengal’s politics has an industrialist made such open impact. Nor did a car that did not exist. But one statement from Ratan Tata took many politicians by surprise, reports Tanmay Chatterjee.

autos Updated: Aug 22, 2008 22:57 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times

Never before in Bengal’s politics has an industrialist made such open impact. Nor did a car that did not exist. But on Friday, one statement from Ratan Tata ensured that if it could not emerge as the second Tatanagar, Singur would certainly become the Waterloo for either the CPI-M or the Trinamool.

Trinamool sources told HT that Ratan Tata’s threat to shut down his most ambitious project into which Rs 1500 crore has already been invested hit the Opposition leadership like a bolt from the blue. “We were expecting some kind of feeler from Tata Motors or the government that a compromise formula could be worked out. But Tata’s statement took us by surprise. Initially we did not know how to react”, said a senior Trinamool leader.

The CPI-M was not taken aback though because Tata had made his stand very clear when industry minister Nirupam Sen called on him at a city hotel on Thursday night. It was learnt that the CPI-M state secretariat had a brainstorming session on Friday morning and derived that Tata’s strong stand could actually help the ruling party isolate Mamata from the masses on this single issue and even permanently leave her with the image of a politician who is opposed to progress. That would ensure completion of the project. But if an industrialist of Ratan Tata’s stature was forced to leave Bengal because of Mamata then the CPI-M would also gain politically even if it sent wrong message to the industry and leave the government red in the face for years to come.

Mamata however was not in a position to leave the movement halfway, her close aides said, because that would seriously compromise her image as Opposition leader. “It will be a terrible loss of face if we dissolve the movement”, said a Trinamool leader leading the land movement. Mamata however was more concerned with the Trinamool’s victory in the recent panchayat and civic polls. “After all people of Singur and Nandigram voted for us. This shows which way the democratic movement is going”, Mamata reporters on Friday even as she toughened her stand against Ratan Tata, even at the risk of sounding it like a personal enmity.

“The next three days will decide which way things will finally go. If Mamata sticks to her decision to lay siege at the Tata factory then it will send a clear message to Ratan Tata, the government and the people of Bengal. After all the cards have been laid on the table. She has to take the first call”, said a senior CPI-M leader.