The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Damage to image done: Buddha

Calcutta, Dec. 26: The con- troversy over Singur, created by an “irresponsible Opposition”, has already tarnished Bengal’s image, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said today.

“People could be thinking, ‘is this Bengal' (What) if I go there'’ It has already sent a wrong message,” the chief minister told the annual general meeting of Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The protests against land acquisition for the Tata Mot- ors factory, about 40 km from Calcutta, he suggested, could make potential investors wary of projects in Bengal.

The chief minister claimed to have taken the Opposition into confidence on the Tata project from the beginning but that did not help. “I feel so bad that the government has to run with such irresponsible Opposition. Before the project took off, I sat with the Opposition members and had long discussions with them with the map of Singur and explained exactly which stretch of land would be taken for the project.”

Industry veterans too said that Singur may have dealt a serious blow to the state, desperately trying to shrug off the image of the past.

“No one (investor) likes trouble,” said Biswadip Gupta, deputy chairman of CII eastern region.

The chief minister, who accused the Opposition of trying to sabotage the industrialisation process, however, vowed to end the uncertainty. He held out the olive branch to Mamata again, saying he was ready to discuss anything under the sun.

“The Prime Minister sent his emissary, V.P. Singh came and even I sent two letters but to no avail. I am willing to dis-cuss anything under the sun with her from industry to land to anything else which she might want to discuss. But still she is adamant about continuing with her fast.”

A member of the audience said the chief minister “looked tense” during the meeting.

But Bhattacharjee held firm on the commitment to have the small-car plant in Singur.

Tata Motors had set its sights on Uttaranchal for its factory. “I persuaded Ratan like anything (to set it up here),” he told the chamber.

The Singur project marks a make-or-break phase for Bengal, he added. “We will never be able to raise our heads again (if Singur does not happen).”

Tata agreement

At Writers’, commerce and industries secretary Sabyasachi Sen said a pact with Tata Motors on the Singur plant could be inked in January.

The government will soon publish the names of farmers who gave their consent to land acquisition in Singur. Sen said: “We’ll publish a detailed list with dag numbers of the plots that they agreed to hand over. We’re trying to publish the list within this week.”

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