The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Maruti Singur poser to Tata

New Delhi, Jan. 24: Dust has not yet settled on the Singur ‘car conspiracy’ theory.

Maruti Udyog has asked Ratan Tata to identify the competitor the industrialist had accused of “fuelling” the fire in Singur, where the plant for the Rs 1-lakh car will come up.

“I don’t know which competitor he is talking about. Since he has the knowledge, he should tell it,” Jagdish Khattar, Maruti Udyog managing director, was quoted as saying by PTI.

“We don’t do all these things (scuttling a rival’s project). We believe in healthy competition,” he added.

Tata had told a TV channel last month that “it (the unrest in Singur) is not just political, because I happen to know that some of our competitors are also fuelling some of this fire. They would be very happy if the project got delayed”.

Since Maruti 800 is a low-priced car, many assumed the company was the target of Tata’s sling-shot, though he himself had never named anyone.

Circumstances have changed since Tata made that statement, when the protest over land acquisition was at its peak. The Opposition campaign has tapered off, barring occasional attempts to burn the fence poles at the site, and preliminary construction began early this week.

Today, Khattar was responding to suggestions that the Tata “people’s car” would dent sales of Maruti 800. On the contrary, Khattar said, “in the event of the Rs 1-lakh car coming, it will only help M 800 as it would narrow the gap with two-wheelers”.

Another reason Maruti topped the list of Tata’s purported target was a comment last year by Osamu Suzuki, the chief executive of Maruti’s parent Suzuki Motor Corporation. Suzuki had said the small car was not feasible and could only be a cheap product.

However, Tata had said the car would not be a cheap three-wheeler with an additional wheel, but a family car.

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