The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mamata sows seeds of potato, patch-up

Singur/Calcutta, Nov. 26: After threatening a bloodbath at Singur, Mamata Banerjee appeared to make a conciliatory gesture today by offering to talk to the Tatas who propose to set up a car plant there.

“I have nothing against Tatas. I don’t mind talking to the Tatas to choose an alternative site,” Mamata told a rally in a Singur village.

Mamata reached Singur in a convoy of nearly 20 cars around 2.35 pm, beginning her programme by sowing potato seeds in land that is being acquired by the government for the Tata small-car project. Village women lined up to blow conch shells and ululate as Mamata performed the symbolic ceremony of protest.

“My only complaint is that the chief minister is misleading the Tatas. Why are they being given agricultural land which is the lone source of livelihood for poor farmers' Can’t we find an alternative site for the Tatas'” she asked.

Although Mamata tried to place the blame on the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government for bringing the project to build the so-called “people’s car” which will cost Rs 1 lakh to Singur, it was actually the Tatas who picked the site, about 40 km from Calcutta.

Trinamul sources said that despite the show of protest — she had done something similar by sowing paddy earlier — Mamata had softened her stand. There could be several reasons.

She may have realised that her opposition to a project that has become a symbol of Bengal’s attempt at industrial revival is not making her any popular, particularly in urban areas, which has been her traditional support base. If the Tatas back out, the CPM will cash in on people’s anger at her.

On a visit to Calcutta yesterday, Tata Motors’ managing director Ravi Kant added an emotional element that wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by Mamata. “This is the crown jewel project for the Tatas, who do have some kind of emotional connect and soft spot for the people of Bengal.”

Another reason could be the feeling that her Singur agitation has not quite snowballed into a popular movement with enough strength to force an administrative change of mind or a Tata rethink.

Farmers have sold land to the government, though there has been the odd resistance by the Trinamul-sponsored Save Farmland Committee — and now the Maoists have joined her, their posters in her support springing up in the area.

The Left Front signalled today it would not sit back and see Mamata play a sole political hand. It will hold a rally at Singur on November 29 in support of the project.

“It is being said that Left Front allies are not speaking in one voice on Singur. Our rally at Singur has been planned to prove our unity,” front chairman and state CPM secretary Biman Bose said.

He refused comment on the huge police presence but added: “Those who are opposing (Trinamul) had boycotted the all-party meet. Now we leave it to the administration to handle the situation.’’

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