Politics is full of all sort of ironies. Here is one from the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee: “I love to play with a direct bat. There is very good potential in our state for industries to come up. We can assure all of you that if anybody is serious about investing in Bengal then he will get full cooperation from the state government. There will be no problem at all.”
She was addressing the media is programme called “Bengal Leads 2012”. Echoes of â€˜India Shiningâ€™? We thought so too. To those who have not being paying attention to the shenanigans of Ms Banerjee, this is the same lady who made a crusade out of the agitation against the Singur land acquisition by the Tatas. The deal had to be scrapped, and Nano found a new home in Sadanand Gujarat.
The entire episode left a bad taste in the mouths of the business community, the Tatas asked the Left government, then in power in the state, to give back the money they had invested, and probably vowed privately to never look towards Bengal again.
It is not surprising therefore that the Business community is by and large chary of moving to West Bengal, at least while Mamata remains in power. Banerjee, who had realised the long term political cost of her agitation, and had also realised that the TMC would be coming to power anyway, started reversing course even as the deal was dying down. She said she was not against Tata building a plant in Singur. She said she was only opposed to the acquisition of 400 acres of land which was forcibly acquired.
But for all she said or did not say, the deal was dead in the water. Early in her tenure as the first non-Left Chief Minister, she started telling all who would hear that she was not against industry.
During the past year, there were many headline grabbing moves to attract industry. Among them, the building of a helicopter service between industrial towns and tourist destinations. This year, completed the about face. Addressing the specific issue troubling investors, Banerjee said land acquisition would be a problem.
“We have already prepared a land bank and a land map so that it can help industrialists. We have a huge potential in manufacturing and agro-based industry sector. There is lot of talent in IT sector also,” said Banerjee.
“If you want to invest in Bengal, land will not be a problem and anybody holding land in excess of the ceiling can send us proposals. We have cleared seven such cases.” No bandhs or blockades in other words.
Even though, again to those paying attention, the fate of the proposed airport city project that Singaporeâ€™s Changi Airports was developing in collaboration with Indian partners would serve as a cautionary tale. The 10000 crore has hit a roadblock, over land acquisition.