Dec. 16: Ratan Tata has revisited his affinity for Bengal and Singur, the comments less than a fortnight before his retirement making some Bengal leaders wonder if he is trying to leave the slate clean for his successor to make an untrammelled beginning.
Tata referred to the possibility of keeping Singur in the group’s picture during an interview with PTI. “Need not be Tata Motors. We have until the court decides this, the plant is still there. Whether it is Tata Motors or something else,” PTI quoted Tata as saying. The Singur land case is now pending in the Supreme Court.
Bengal industries minister Partha Chatterjee declined to give a response. “The matter is sub judice,” Chatterjee said in Delhi but added that he would speak only after December 28.
Chatterjee did not explain the significance of December 28 but Ratan Tata turns 75 on that day and passes on the Tata Sons baton to his chosen successor Cyrus Mistry.
The Bengal government has been asking aloud whether a change of guard within the group could help find a way out of the Singur logjam. “Please remember that Shapoor Mistry, Cyrus Mistry’s brother, had come to Writers’ Buildings to meet Mamata,” a party leader eagerly pointed out today.
However, the business interests of the two brothers are now separate. Shapoor looks after construction while Cyrus is stepping into the shoes of Tata after opting out of the family business.
Besides, Ratan Tata is expected to be a towering presence as he is already the chairman emeritus of various group companies and the head of key trusts.
During the interview, Tata spoke of his disappointment at the turn of events in Singur and his admiration for former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee — themes he had addressed on earlier occasions too.
A point that stood out in the comments cited by the news agency was his assessment that the Nano plant could have been a turning point for not just Bengal but eastern India as a whole.
It was not just another factory, it was not just another plant. “It was a new product that had never been done in India and we are taking (it) to a place that has been ignored industrially for a long period of time. So I felt very good,” Tata said.
“It was a great disappointment because we went to West Bengal in a leap of faith thinking that that part of the country was being ignored industrially. I had a great regard for Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. I thought he was really trying to industrialise West Bengal and I thought the plant we had could have created eventually 7,000-8,000 jobs.”
The widely respected industrialist said: “If there is something that I could do to be involved with eastern India, I would welcome that.”
He also spoke of his affection for Bengal. “Bengali people are very nice people. So I have an affinity — don’t speak the language — (for) that part of the country and to see something happen there would be quite a thrill for me.”