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Buddha balm on Singur cut
- CM regrets crackdown, calls Mamata to meet

Calcutta, Oct. 1: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has virtually regretted the police action against Mamata Banerjee and her colleagues in an unusual conciliatory gesture, but stopped short of handing the apology that Trinamul Congress is seeking.

“It would have been better had police not been sent to Singur on the night of September 25. I did not want the undesirable incident,” the chief minister said in a statement today, requesting Trinamul to join the all-party meeting on October 4.

CPM state secretary and Left Front chairman Biman Bose pitched in, asking Trinamul and its allies to call off the statewide bandh on October 9 in view of the “worsening flood crisis in 16 districts and the plight of marooned people”.

“There is also scope for discussion to withdraw the cases filed by the police. I request the Trinamul Congress to join the all-party meet,’’ the chief minister said.

Over 70 Trinamul leaders and supporters of the Singur Krishi Jami Bachao committee arrested that night, when they were protesting handover of farmland to the Tatas for their small car project, were granted bail by the high court.

The chief minister, who issued the statement after Trinamul demanded an “apology for police brutalities”, seems to be taking a calculated risk by holding out the goodwill gesture.

If Mamata, laid up in hospital, is not feeling as generous in the festive season and insists on the apology, Bhattacharjee will be left looking for a political face-saver. However, the chief minister can claim that he had gone the extra mile to accommodate the Opposition in the drive to re-industrialise Bengal.

Trinamul leaders appeared undecided whether they should join the meeting. “We will decide on the matter after discussing it with our leader, Mamata Banerjee,” general secretary Mukul Roy said.

But if Bhattacharjee was sorry about the police action, Bose did not appear to think it was a big deal. “I won’t comment whether the police committed excesses after the chief minister’s statement,” said the CPM state secretary, who led the attack on the Trinamul-Congress campaign in Singur.

“But I have seen on TV that government officials, our peasant leaders and farmers who had come to collect cheques for their land were forcibly detained by those who had occupied the Singur BDO’s office. If somebody tried to occupy my party office, I would have ejected him in the same manner.’’

Recalling an incident when he and other SFI activists had gheraoed the Presidency College principal in 1966, Bose said police had battered him as they came to rescue the principal. “Politicians should understand that it is the government’s job to rescue the gheraoed officials.’’

But Bose would not say if the government would go ahead with the all-party meet if Trinamul did not join it.

The CPM leader ruled out shifting the Tata unit site in Singur to nearby marshy land as suggested by some Trinamul leaders. “We don’t want to endanger water bodies in the state further,’’ he said.

The Left Front will meet on October 3 to close ranks before the all-party meet, he added.

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