The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha industry challenge to opponents

Calcutta, March 11: Pepped up by the sight of a sea of people at a peasants’ rally, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today challenged the Opposition to accept the 2008 panchayat polls as a referendum on the government’s industry policy.

The chief minister, who had admitted to being under pressure from the Opposition and Left Front allies alike because of the land acquisition drive for industry and infrastructure projects, today sounded aggressive.

“We have an acid test ahe-ad of us. Our enemies are coming together, so we have to close our ranks and face the challenge,’’ he told the Brigade Parade Grounds rally organised by Krishak Sabha, the CPM farmers’ wing.

Bhattacharjee dared the Opposition to hold him back. “We will see who holds what strength and power. If they go for processions, we will go for them too. If they organise rallies, we will hold much bigger ones. We have to march ahead to keep our promise to turn Bengal first among states, not only in agriculture but also in industry and education.”

In the same breath, he called the Trinamul Congress and the Congress to talks. “My doors are still open. But we can’t tolerate disruptive activities in Singur or anarchy and violence in Nandigram. I’ve asked police to keep restraint. But it can’t be forever.’’

After reminding the audience of the legacy of the militant anti-landlord movements of the 1960s and land reforms during the Left rule, Bhattacharjee, CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar and rural development minister Surjya Kanta Mishra skipped the usual farmer’s issues and highlighted the need for industrialisation, instead.

There was no mention of any special economic zone — on hold because of a central policy revision — or the CPM’s bid to relax the rural land ceiling — to which the other Left parties are opposed.

Industry, the leaders said, was essential to ease the pressure of population on agriculture and provide jobs to the educated children of farmers.

Bhattacharjee and Konar highlighted the cost-benefit ratio of farmland acquisition in Singur and elsewhere to illustrate how today’s pain could be tomorrow’s gain.

The countdown to the rural polls was clear from Konar’s words. “From the BJP to the Jamait Ulema-i Hind, Trinamul to the Naxalites, all the shaitans (devils) have ganged up to dislodge us from the panchayats. You have take up the challenge. We are confident after today’s turnout,’’ he said.

Land and land reforms minister Abdur Rezzak Mollah sounded a tad different, tho- ugh. While stressing the need for agro-based industries alongside manufacturing units, Mollah asserted the necessity of maintaining the current landholding pattern and sought jobs for landlosers.

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