The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tata’s ‘reasonable’ offer

Calcutta, Feb. 5: Breezing in to stand by Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee in the middle of fresh land unrest, Ratan Tata today said he is ready for a “dialogue with reasonable parties”.

“I am not a politician… but I am ready for a dialogue with any reasonable political party,” Tata said this evening in Calcutta after a declaration of confidence in chief minister Bhattacharjee.

Tata did add that he does not think “as an industry, we should get involved in the process”. However, by saying that he is willing to talk to any party that is “reasonable”, Tata has put the ball in the court of Mamata Banerjee, whose party spent another day trying to damage the fence around the Tata small-car plant site in Singur.

Mamata, who did not go to Singur where prohibitory orders were reimposed and was prevented from entering Hooghly after clashes during the day, had called it a day by the time Tata wrapped up his talks with Bhattacharjee and held out in public the talks offer.

Mamata’s lieutenants said that instead of making a “general statement”, Tata should write to the party concerned and specify the terms for talks.

However, if political expediency forces Mamata to shy away from talks, her party again runs the risk of being branded unreasonable — a charge that has gained ground with Trinamul’s penchant to enforce shutdowns and oppose industrialisation.

Perhaps keeping the implications in mind, Tata stressed on the contributions the car project can make to Bengal. “I am interested in getting the product out and serving the community,” he said.

For the chief minister, the visit of Tata, riding a wave since the Corus victory, could not have been more opportune.

If Bhattacharjee had a bad day in office with television channels relentlessly beaming footage of the Singur violence, the stress-buster came in the evening.

Around 5.45 pm, Tata arrived in a silver-grey Honda Accord at Swasthya Bhavan. The decision to touch down in Calcutta was apparently taken in the afternoon.

The health department headquarters was turned into a fortress for the meeting — the official agenda of which was to discuss a cancer hospital project.

After two hours and 20 minutes, Bhattacharjee and Tata strode out and posed for the cameras.

“I am confident that we will bring out the car by 2008…. We made the right choice by coming to Bengal,” a smiling Tata said. “We appreciate the efforts of the Bengal government…. I am very confident that the project in Singur will create jobs and improve the livelihood of people.”

Standing next to Tata, Bhattacharjee added: “We discussed the company’s automobile project. We briefed him about the ground situation in Singur, which he also wanted to know. Things are moving in the right direction there…. There are more people working at the plant site than those who are protesting.”

The government has assured Tata that operations will be scaled up to expedite the construction of the boundary wall in Singur.

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