Cornered Buddha willing to talk

CM offers to hold talks with the Opposition with an open mind, report Aloke Banerjee, Sandip Chowdhury, Rakeeb Hossain.

india Updated: Dec 04, 2006 04:17 IST

Sensing that public opinion was fast swinging away from him following shocking visuals of police action against farmers in Singur, Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Sunday offered to hold talks with the Opposition “with an open mind”.

Speaking at a CITU sponsored rally in Kolkata, the chief minister said, "I had approached the Trinamool and the Congress even earlier and had sought their suggestions on the Tata Motors project. But they did not respond. Even now I am prepared to talk with them with an open mind,” he said.

The sudden change in stance was prompted by the Socialist Unity Center of India and the Naxalites’ call for a Bengal bandh on Tuesday, Mamata Banerjee’s decision to start an indefinite hunger strike and her threat to call a 72-hour bandh and also by the pressure generated by Medha Patkar siding with the Singur farmers.

As the opposition to the forcible acquisition of land gained momentum — even from within the Left Front — the first offer of negotiation was given by Patkar. “Land shouldn’t be acquired from unwilling farmers through violent acts. Let us resolve the crisis through dialogue,” she said.

Her suggestion was followed up by Union minister and Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi. “Let the chief minister talk to all the political parties to find a solution,” he said.

The pressure on Bhattacharjee mounted when the CPI, RSP and the Forward Bloc told him at an emergency Left Front meeting that police brutality in Singur reminded them of the “dark days of Congress rule”.

“If your claim that farmers willingly gave their land is true, why did you have to send 5000 policemen?” asked RSP minister Kshiti Goswami. “Why did you allow our Left rally in Singur but clamped section 144 just before Mamata's rally?” asked CPI state secretary Manju Majumdar.

The chief minister defended the police action, but could not prevent the Left Front from formally adopting a resolution that from now on the police should be restrained in Singur.

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First Published: Dec 04, 2006 04:17 IST