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Talks table set Trio to meet in governor's presence

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By INDRANIL GHOSH in Calcutta
  • Published 3.09.08
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Calcutta, Sept. 2: Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and the Tatas are expected to meet Mamata Banerjee in the presence of governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi in the next 48 hours, highly placed sources told The Telegraph.

If unpredictable changes do not derail the schedule overnight, the proposed meeting is likely to be attended by a senior official representing the Tatas. But Ratan Tata may “make himself available” if the situation demands his presence, according to the sources.

The dramatic turn of events in the efforts to break the Singur deadlock came on a day Tata Motors formally announced it was evaluating “alternate” options for making the car at other company facilities and a plan was being prepared to relocate the plant and machinery from Singur.

Around the same time Tata Motors issued the statement, chief minister Bhattacharjee was giving finishing touches to the proposal for tripartite talks that will be facilitated by the governor.

Both the Trinamul Congress and the chief minister separately requested the governor to be the mediator. Governor Gandhi was reluctant, citing constitutional compulsions, but is learnt to have eventually agreed to chair the proposed tripartite meeting. “It will be a facilitating role, not exactly that of a mediator,” a source said.

“I have spoken to him (the governor) at length. I requested him to play the role of a mediator. He said he will consider my request,” the chief minister was quoted as telling his party colleagues after meeting Gandhi for over 30 minutes at Raj Bhavan this evening.

Ratan Tata is also understood to have spoken to the governor during the day. Tata told the governor that he was happy that Gandhi had stepped in, one of the sources said. “Tata also offered to make himself or a top officer available for the talks, should the necessity arise,” the source added.

The services of a legal expert — preferably a former judge — would be sought, if needed, during the meeting, the source said. Teams representing all three sides could also be called in for inputs.

As the chief minister has told the governor that the matter should be resolved “at the earliest”, Gandhi is expected to send soon an invitation to Mamata to attend the talks.

Mamata has been insisting on some kind of assurance from the government on returning “400 acres” but if the governor sends the invitation, she will not expect such a promise, other sources said. The governor’s invitation will address her concerns by promising to consider all issues raised by her. It was not clear whether the letter will specifically mention the “400 acres”.

If the talks take place as planned, the government is expected to offer a package that involves the promise of some land, a source said. ( )

The efforts to set the talks table brightened this noon when Mamata offered to set up a Trinamul committee to hold discussions with the state government and Tata Motors under the aegis of the governor or his nominee. The names of Partha Chatterjee, Dinesh Trivedi and Kalyan Banerjee (all Trinamul functionaries); Debabrata Bandopadhyay, a former panchayat secretary; and Sunanda Sanyal, an academic; were suggested.

“I sincerely wish Mamata Banerjee’s views should be heard and I would not like the Tatas to go away because of the agitation. I want to see my state Bengal prosper,” a source quoted Gandhi as telling the Trinamul leaders.

“The ball is now in their (the state government’s) court,” Chatterjee said after meeting the governor. “They must respond now. Mamata Banerjee cannot be expected to go on making concessions.”

So hectic was the day for Chatterjee that he had to travel twice from Singur to Calcutta (45km), shuttling between Mamata and Gandhi. More than once, the loudspeaker operator at the Singur siege site was requested to lower the volume, presumably to discuss the governor’s messages in a quieter environment.

During her now-regular evening speech, Mamata did not refer to Chatterjee’s meetings with the governor — which was seen as a sign she was taking the initiative seriously.

The chief minister picked up the thread left off by Trinamul when he reached Raj Bhavan in response to a call from the governor.