Dec. 27: Ratan Tata today accused “some of our competitors” of stirring the Singur controversy, adding a stunning new dimension of corporate intrigue to what has been a political issue so far.
In an interview to NDTV, he also expressed determination to see through the project that will turn out cars costing Rs 100,000 at the site some 40 km from Calcutta.
“Let me just say it is not just political, because I happen to know that some of our competitors are also fuelling some of this fire… they would be very happy if the project got delayed,” he said.
Mamata Banerjee has been fasting for 24 days now against what she calls “forcible” land acquisition in Singur.
While competitors expressed surprise at the charge voiced by a corporate leader of impeccable credentials, Mamata’s Trinamul Congress threatened to take the Tata group chairman to court.
“We will file a defamation case against Ratan Tata. His statement will prove to be an obstacle to any respectable solution to the Singur issue. His statement is an echo of what Biman Bose had said earlier and is in bad taste,” said Trinamul general secretary Mukul Roy.
Bose, the CPM boss in Bengal, had said about two weeks ago that Tata Motors’ competitors were encouraging the agitation over Singur.
The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance today decided to seek the President’s intervention in the dispute. After a meeting at Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s residence, it said: “Farmers will never forgive the anti-people governments in Bengal and at the Centre if anything were to happen to Banerjee.”
Efforts continued to get her to call off the fast, but without success.
Tata said: “We regret what has happened and (I) ask myself have we been caught in a political quagmire where political issues have tended to try and overcome even the issues they are supposed to espouse'”
He was clear Tata Motors would not pull out because of the controversy. “The Bengal government has been very steadfast in its support and I think it would be wrong for us to say that we will pull out and go.
“I am unfortunately a person that has often said ‘you put a gun to my head and pull the trigger or take the gun away, I won’t move my head’.”
Travelling in north Bengal, the chief minister reaffirmed that the project would go ahead. “If the Tatas now refuse to come, we would not be able to continue the state’s industrial development,” he said.
Tata was laudatory about Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. “Why did we go to Bengal”, he said, “because we believe in the leadership that the present government has provided.”
State industries minister Nirupam Sen was quick to appreciate the reassertion of faith in Bengal from Tata.
Tata’s accusation set the business beehive buzzing. Maruti and Hyundai, both of which make small cars and are the country’s two other big automobile companies, declined comment.
The country’s biggest car maker, Maruti, has four small models — the 800, Alto, Zen Estillo and Wagon R. Hyundai has the Santro. Several others are planning small cars.