The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
CIMA Gallary
Email This Page
Race against Nandigram II
Govt hands off, peace onus on Mamata

Singur, Aug. 22: Hours before Mamata Banerjee begins her indefinite Singur sit-in, the strategy of the CPM-led government and the party appeared to be to give her a long political rope and hope for the best.

The reason for striking the pose of patience became evident in a large meeting industries minister Nirupam Sen addressed at Singur.

“An assorted Opposition — a grand alliance of the far Right to ultra Left forces — set off violence in Nandigram and accused us of unleashing terror. Now the Congress has joined them. They want to repeat Nandigram in Singur,” he said.

Avoid another Nandigram seems to be the one-point agenda of the administration and the party.

Another Nandigram is what Mamata perhaps wants, the CPM knows.

Another Nandigram — far less even — of course means no Nano from Singur.

Ratan Tata was clear today that Rs 1,500 crore, which he has spent on Singur, would not be any reason for him to grin and bear the violence.

Both chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Sen said repeatedly during the day that Trinamul leaders had promised to not indulge in violence.

“The Trinamul leadership has assured us it (the sit-in) would be peaceful. If there is violence, the administration would take necessary action,” Sen said after a party secretariat meeting earlier in the day.

Signals from the administration suggested it had been told to keep its hands off the baton and the bullet.

A home department official said: “We do not want any confrontation or any action that can lead to violence and counter-attack by the protesters. If there is vandalism, we will definitely try to stop that but won’t allow a Nandigram to happen in Singur.”

Home secretary Asok Mohan Chakrabarti drew a parallel with Darjeeling. “The government has to consider the costs of any decision or move that can generate controversy. Had it not been so, we would have resorted to high-handedness in Darjeeling to control the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha’s activities. Similarly, we are treading cautiously in Singur.”

Inspector-general (law and order) Raj Kanojia put the number of policemen in Singur at 700, adding that state police have been asked to be ready to deploy more personnel if necessary.

Politically, the repeated stress on the Opposition’s promise to maintain peace is meant to carry the message to the people that if there is violence, the responsibility will be Mamata’s.

A section of CPM leaders is not averse to allowing Mamata’s supporters to indulge in violence since they believe it would add to her anti-industry image. “But we were told the government can’t afford it, particularly when Ratan Tata expressed his anxieties over the safety of his staff and equipment today,” a senior CPM leader in Hooghly said.

If wait and watch is the strategy at Singur, in Calcutta the approach would be to keep talking to Mamata, through her emissaries or, better still, directly. It’s not yet clear though what the government can offer for her to climb down from her 400-acre-or-nothing stand.

Simultaneously, the campaign will continue how “a grave conspiracy has been hatched against the Left Front government, our party as well as West Bengal.... We have to mobilise lakhs of people against this destructive politics,” as Sen told the rally.

He wished Ratan Tata was in Singur today. “Today’s huge rally in support of the Tata Motors unit makes me confident that the factory will definitely come up here. Ratan Tata would have been happy if he was here today. He would have felt reassured that lakhs of people in West Bengal want industry despite the irresponsible acts of a few thousand.”

Email This Page