The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Hard and soft lines in tug-of-war Party flexible, not Mamata

Calcutta, Dec. 17: With Mamata Banerjee’s health going downhill and her fast in protest against the Singur land acquisition completing a fortnight, the Trinamul Congress, the CPM and the government appeared keen on a formula to end the impasse.

While Trinamul leaders climbed down from their demands, the CPM indicated a softening of its stand. “A fresh hearing for farmers who weren’t willing to sell their land can be arranged if the Trinamul chief gives the proposal in writing and ends her fast,” CPM state secretariat member Benoy Konar told The Telegraph.

Sections of Trinamul, which are apparently working to get Sonia Gandhi to soften chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and are in touch with Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar to open a line of communication with Ratan Tata, said they favoured an end to Mamata’s fast.

“Mamata Banerjee’s life matters more at this hour. If she is alive, we will be able to carry on our fight against this insensitive government,’’ said Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP Dinesh Tribedi, who will seek an appointment with Sonia.

Wrapped in a shawl, the Trinamul chief spent the day lying on her cot on the hunger strike dais — there were few speeches and no tirade against the Tatas.

“Her spirit is still strong. But we have to decide whether her life is more important than the farmers’ issue in view of the chief minister’s stubbornness,’’ leader of Opposition Partha Chatterjee said.

However, Mamata and many in the Trinamul-led Krishi Jomi Banchao Committee think that ending the fast at this stage “would be political suicide” for her and the agitation.

Trinamul leaders, though, offered “flexible” formulas far removed from their original demand for a shift of the entire Tata Motors unit from Singur. They now want the government to hold a public hearing for the “farmers whose land has been acquired without their consent or with approval obtained under duress”.

The government is not opposed to that but it has turned down any likelihood of accepting any of their other demands (see below).

The chief minister ruled out any negotiation on the acquired land after his meeting with former Prime Minister V.P. Singh, who tried to broker a settlement on Friday.

Although the Trinamul-led farmers’ body has claimed that at least 347 acres were taken away forcibly, Konar said about 50 acres were acquired without the owners’ consent.

He also ruled out return of the land as it would neither suit the Tatas nor the farmers to have land sandwiched by the car factory.

“There is no provision for providing alternative land to landlosers in the present law,’’ Konar said.

CPM state secretary Biman Bose today iterated his appeal to Mamata to end her fast. “Her purpose of highlighting the acquisition issue has already been served.”

Trinamul wants Government says
Public hearing for farmers whose land has been acquired against their wishes OK, if Mamata ends her fast and gives her suggestions in writing
Prohibitory orders in Singur lifted and cases against those arrested for the attack on police withdrawn Will be considered once Mamata officially submits her suggestions
Suspension of transfer of land belonging to those opposed to acquisition and their return if they do not relent Sorry, not acceptable
Acquisition of low land for Tata Motors’ ancillary units on the other side of Durgapur Expressway or the shift of these units to Dankuni Untenable. It would compromise the viability of the small-car project

Allotment of alternative plots to the landlosers in the vicinity of Singur In land-scarce Bengal, that is impossible
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