It may not be wrong to call it a case of fortune favouring the brave. A fresh rush of investment proposals for Bengal is clearly a measure of the investors’ confidence in Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s commitment to industrialization. The forthcoming visit of a business delegation from Singapore, headed by a minister, will cap a series of new initiatives. The Mahindra group, one of India’s leading automobile manufacturers, wants to follow in the footsteps of the Tatas and make its first ever investment in the state. Fifty-five other firms have unfolded their plans to set up small units in order to take advantage of the new dawn of the automobile industry in Bengal. The Hitachi group wants to not only join the Tatas in a new venture but also set up its first technology research centre outside Japan in Bengal. Yet, all these new investors could have blacklisted Bengal for the political turmoil that has gripped the state over the past one year. They cannot be unaware that the political temperature may rise again. But hard-nosed businessmen usually have a better sense of the reality than woolly-headed politicians and sundry other anti-industrialization protestors. That they remain unfazed by the political storms can suggest only one thing — they have more hopes than worries about Bengal.
However, all this is not to say that Mr Bhattacharjee has no reasons to worry. It is a good sign for Bengal’s future that he did not abandon his economic mission in the face of political turbulence. But he may face worse trouble if he does not take his lessons from recent public responses, particularly over the events at Nandigram. Both his government and his party, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), have made mistakes there. Part of the public outcry over Nandigram was not so much against industrialization as against the administrative failures and the CPI(M)’s strong-arm tactics to recapture lost ground. Bengal’s economic transformation is not a matter of petty street battles between the Marxists and their political opponents. So much more is at stake in Mr Bhattacharjee’s industrialization drive. But its success will largely depend on his administrative skills and his ability to save it from his party’s overzealous cadre. The anti-capitalist rhetoric of his detractors should be the least of his problems.