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Mum on Singur but vocal about Bengal

Calcutta, July 15: Cyrus Mistry toed Ratan Tata’s line in reiterating Tata Group’s commitment to Bengal even as the new chairman of the $100-billion conglomerate betrayed little emotion usually associated with his predecessor at the last leg of his tenure.

During his first visit to Calcutta after assuming charge of the salt-to-software group, Mistry said the Tatas would never leave Bengal in an oblique reference to the Singur problem but skirted questions on the subject.

“I would like to say that the Tatas never left Bengal and we will never leave Bengal,” the 44-year-old Mistry said during the annual general meeting of Tata Global Beverages in Calcutta today.

At least five shareholders asked Mistry about his views on Singur and Bengal but the chairman declined to comment. “The matter (Singur) is sub-judice,” a stony-faced Mistry said. He also declined to divulge the future plan of the group.

Ratan Tata, in his last visit to Calcutta as the chairman of Tata Group last year, was more effusive on the state and spoke of Singur despite the matter being sub-judice.

“One day when we believe the environment at the political level is more friendly... we will be here. Both the group and I personally have no intention of walking away from Bengal,” Tata had said last year.

On Singur, he had said, “It (Singur) is sub-judice and whatever the outcome is, I think we will respect the law... who knows may be one day we will have a Tata Motors factory somewhere in Bengal and, hopefully, be welcomed.”

Corporate observers said Mistry might have been hamstrung in speaking up following a recent observation of the Supreme Court that the Tatas should consider giving up claims on the land. Tata Motors has been asked to submit an affidavit by August 13 to inform the apex court what it would like to do with the plot.

Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who had led the agitation in Singur five years ago before the Tatas shifted the Nano factory to Gujarat, had greeted the court’s observation as a “moral victory”.

Observers said the development could have queered the pitch for Mistry’s meeting with the chief minister during the latter’s scheduled visit to Mumbai on August 1. Mamata will be meeting a section of top industrialists to bring in investments.

“If Mistry now meets Mamata, it may send a signal that the Tatas are more keen than the state on a resolution. He could also feel uncomfortable to meet her without the Singur issue being resolved,” they said.

 
 
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