Aug. 31: Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi has requested Mamata Banerjee to suspend her siege so that the Singur issue could be referred to an unbiased intermediator and status quo maintained on the disputed land.
The proposal for the mediator was greeted with scepticism and the one for status quo with derision. But the second suggestion was open to interpretation to suit each side — an essential factor while dealing with seemingly intractable positions.
I had, through Shri Partha Chatterjee, suggested that a person with no political or industrial affiliations be invited to act as an unbiased intermediator in the matter. He or she can go into the demand articulated by you and give carefully thought-out findings for the earnest consideration of all sides. If this thought is acceptable to you, please suggest a name or names. I would request the state government to respond positively, the governor said in a letter dated August 29.
Mamata responded by insisting that a mediator had to be chosen by us, following which the CPM said in derision that there was no apolitical side in this dispute.
Sources told The Telegraph that the Tatas, too, were not favourably disposed towards the entry of an arbitrator at this juncture. Back-channel talks are already on. Another interlocutor will only muddy the situation, a source said.
The governors second suggestion, though it appeared to touch a raw nerve in the CPM initially, is more open-ended than the first.
If my suggestion is acted upon, I could urge that the status quo on the sites belonging to the owners unwilling to part with them be maintained, even as you give pause to the agitation, until the intermediators recommendation becomes available and, hopefully, leads to a solution, the governor said in the letter to Mamata.
At first flush, the CPM treated the reference to status quo as a red rag, while the Trinamul Congress said the governor meant no construction should take place on the disputed land.
But other sources pointed out that if status quo was to be maintained, the land would have to be kept with the Tatas and the vendors until the final agreement was reached. So many holdings have been merged that it is difficult to earmark which area belongs to the unwilling farmer and which to the willing, a source said.
This was why Mamata had two weeks ago modified her position, saying 400 acres meant for vendors should be returned, not the particular plot of each unwilling landloser.
Some officials saw a window of opening in the governors statement, though the chief minister iterated today that ancillary units could not be shifted.
However, in case the vendors are asked to go slow for some days to give an impression that status quo is being maintained, it will not affect the project immediately because Tata Motors can roll out the Nano using supplies sourced from elsewhere during the initial months.
A delegation led by Trinamuls Chatterjee today called on the governor. You will have to come to the negotiating table, a source quoted the governor as telling the delegation.
Mamata did not give any indication that she was heeding the governors request to suspend the agitation but she did send at least two signals that suggested a subtle shift.
While iterating her stand that she can hold talks while the siege is on, Mamata did not go out of her way to point out that the return of 400 acres was a precondition for talks.
She also said: We will have no problem if 10 to 15 acres out of 400 acres are to be given for the main project. This is the first time Mamata has hinted that the number 400 is not an open-and-shut case. The government has been putting such land below 200 acres.
Sources said some workers might try to reach the Nano factory — inactive since Thursday evenings blockade — tomorrow to test the waters after Mamatas communication with the governor.