Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tata Motors Might Return to Singur?

By: Subhadeep Bhattacharjee 

Politics and business are never done emotionally. People with high ego usually do not end up being good politicians and businessman. Nobody is a permanent foe or a friend and it is more about flowing with the tide than to be sitting on the shore and waiting for an uncertain future. In a political hotbed like West Bengal where the future looks uncertain most of the players both in the industry and politics are playing their card safe. One of them is Tata Motors, yes the same company which was forced out of Singur by Mamata Banerjee and her supporters over the issue of unwilling farmers refusing to part with their land and take compensation from the government.

Many had expected this to be a final nail in the coffin for Mamata who had hurt the industrial aspiration of the state and dented the image of the state for ever. But what followed next was the rise of a firebrand leader whose political career seemed doomed after the 2006 Assembly Elections in West Bengal. The rise has been so much so that most of the industry captains are taking note of this and feel they might have to meet her in Writers from May onwards. The preset occupants the Left have closely guarded the red paint of the building for the last three and half decades.

Surprisingly Tata Motors has been renewing the lease of the plot at Singur which once promised to be the Detroit of India for production of the Wonder Car. While many wonder why Tata is still holding the land there are conspiracy theories emerging of Tata returning to Singur once the next government occupies the Writers. This might be a far fetched theory but who know in an uncertain state every possibility is worth a debate. Let us look at some of the parties which have stakes in this Singur plot.

The Farmers: They have been the biggest losers of this entire controversy. The once fertile land is no longer fit for agriculture due to the heavy construction work which took place. The closing down of the plant shattered the hopes of youth who might have got direct employment. The politicians have also gone back to Kolkata and the people here are left with virtually nothing. The only hope for these people is the coming up of an industry on the plot be it the Tatas or anybody.

Left Front: This was their flagship project which would have struck back their anti-industry image and made Buddhadeb the pied piper of Bengal. Alas, the same Leftists tactics of using force over the people cost them this opportunity. Their 260 versus 30 logic failed and the party succumbed to the same medicine which it had used for decades. Their first mistake was to acquire fertile land when barren land was available not too far away. Secondly the arrogance to suppress people of the area with their carders and having a shady compensation package for the farmers. They were left egg faced when Trinamool Congress won the Hooghly Lok Sabha which comprises Singur in the 2009 Elections.

Trinamool Congress: You can blame Mamata for this entire agitation but by pure politics it was a master stroke. Her once doomed political career got a new lease of life and she is almost certain to capture the Red Fort which many through insurmountable over the years. Singur through remains a bad patch in her CV if pragmatically assessed. But her dreams of taking the railway industry to Singur will help her get rid of some sins. To be honest neither she nor no one in her party might have ever imagined the Tatas to walk off. They were more prepared for negotiations which would have given her political mileage. But once in Writers she will have much more control over the affairs of the state and who knows might be able to turn Singur into an industrial hub which the Left only did in papers. If she can bring back the Tatas she has cast the final nail in the coffin for Left.

Tata Motors: Well they are perhaps playing the smartest game among all. Their Nano has failed to ignite the aspirations of the nation and Sanand plant is far away from meeting their target. In such a case going back to Singur won't be stupid as this will save them time and streamline distribution from two plants one in east and another in the west. With the Finance Ministry in Pranab Mukherjee's hand negotiations in the highest corridors of power isn't unlikely. Tatas have less to loose and more to gain from this deal in a state where they already hold large business interest. The problem was never with the Tata plant but the ancillary units attached with it. A little bit of political bargain can do it between the Tatas and Mamata Banerjee if she makes it to Writers after the elections can happen. It's no wonder that Tata is still holding on to the plot not to tease Mamata for sure as Tatas aren’t know for such brick bickering but they really do mean business.

People Of West Bengal: In a country like India where majority of the population is below the age of 35 there is no alternative to industry. When you get a name like Tata investing in your state, you don't need to think twice. The people of the state are here to gain if Tata decides to bury the past and look at Singur from pure business point of view. For everyone Tatas relooking at the state will be high return on investment.


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