The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Careful Cong sidesteps Singur

Calcutta, Sept. 27: Sonia Gandhi’s Congress today sought to project itself as a responsible Opposition party in Bengal as it rolled out the welcome mat for Ratan Tata and his proposed car project in Singur.

While rallying behind Mamata Banerjee in her bid to get Tata to relocate the project, Congress leaders stressed that they didn’t want the protest to come in the way of Tata’s dream — to roll out a Rs 1-lakh car from Bengal — or Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s vision of an industrialised state.

“Let’s make it clear, we have nothing against Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s industrialisation programme, or the Tatas’ small-car project,” Union information and broadcasting minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi said. “Ratan Tata is an ideal industrialist. We would like to have him here,” he added.

After five years, senior Congress leaders shared the dais with Mamata today and announced a series of protests against the police action in Singur to dislodge Trinamul Congress supporters who had laid siege to the block office against land acquisition.

Congress leaders such as Somen Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Sudip Bandopadhyay urged the government to structure an all-party initiative and “take us (the Opposition) into confidence”.

Das Munshi said: “We would like the government to consult us on the Singur project. Let us all first explore the possibility of finding an alternative to Singur in districts like Purulia and Bankura.”

But sensing the popular mood, the Congress leaders made it clear that they would not seek to stay the Left government’s initiative on Singur if the consultation process did not yield a viable alternative. “If that initiative fails, we can always revisit the Singur option with necessary alterations,” a Congress leader said.

The police action in Singur, in which Mamata was allegedly assaulted, has brought the two parties closer.

It is also evident that the Singur movement, woven around the proposed Tata Motors project, has started to lose its emotive appeal after the Opposition leaders were forced to have the protest venue shifted from Singur to Calcutta.

“In Puja-bound Calcutta, Singur does not evoke a strong-enough reaction. To the average Calcuttan, it is an ordinary law and order problem,” a Trinamul leader said.

True to this perception, the Congress leaders at the rally criticised the “heinous police assault” on Mamata and referred to Singur in general terms. “It’s an attack on womanhood,” thundered Das Munshi. “Buddhababu must hang his head in shame,” said Mukherjee.

Chastised, the chief minister chose to invoke, not Marx, but someone else. “God, forgive them for they don’t know what they do,” he said.

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