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Good 'M', bad 'M'

Good 'M', bad 'M'

Author: Editorial
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: October 13, 2008

Tatas lash out at Kerala's Marxist CM

Soon after he decided to relocate the Nano's mother plant to Sanand in Gujarat from Singur in West Bengal, Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata said his last meeting with Chief Minister West Bengal was particularly hard. It would have been -- till the last minute, Mr Bhattacharjee and West Bengal Industries Minister Nirupam Sen tried to salvage the project and convince Mr Tata that he should not move out of the State. But Mr Tata could read the writing on the wall and rather than allow the project to founder on the rock of Ms Mamata Banerjee's obduracy, he chose to take his investment elsewhere. Yet, he took care to let it be known that he held no grudge against either Mr Bhattacharjee or his party, the CPI(M). On their part, Mr Bhattacharjee and his comrades have been cautious not to criticise Mr Tata's decision; they are hopeful of another project materialising to compensate for the loss of the Nano plant. Indeed, ever since the project was conceived, great bonhomie marked the discussions between the Tata Group and the Left Front Government, notwithstanding the fact that Communists do not take kindly to capitalists. There is, however, nothing to suggest that the good vibes are shared between the two beyond West Bengal -- for evidence, witness the slanging match between the Tata Group and Kerala's Marxist Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan. For the past one year, Mr Achuthanandan has been waging a campaign against the Tata Group, accusing Tata Tea of grabbing land in Munnar. Not that Mr Achuthanandan has been able to prove his allegation: On the contrary, he was left looking utterly silly when it was found that land he claimed had been usurped by Tata Tea was actually belonged to, and was in the custody of, the forest department. A red-faced Chief Minister reacted by doing what politicians usually do in such situations: Punishing bureaucrats for 'misleading' him. That embarrassment, though, has not curbed Mr Achuthanandan's enthusiasm to prove that Tata Tea has been grabbing land; recently, he reiterated his charges without bothering to check on his facts. Tata Tea has now hit back, pointing out that neither is the tea plantation in Munnar any longer under its control -- a separate company has been formed in which workers, most of them members of CITU, hold majority share -- nor is it in posession of excess land. In fact, the area with the plantation is less than what it should have had, the remaining having been taken over by squatters who enjoy Marxist patronage.

Apparently, the animosity between Mr Achuthanandan and Tata Tea dates back to the 1990s when the two clashed repeatedly. The veteran Marxist saw Tata Tea as a 'class enemy' to be defeated and demolished; Tata Tea reciprocated his sentiments in full measure. The spat between the two has left the CPI(M)'s central leadership in a flux -- it does not want to be seen as supporting Mr Achuthanandan lest it impact adversely on the prospects of Mr Ratan Tata revisiting the abandoned Singur project at a later date. At the same time, it can't be seen to be abandoning Mr Achuthanandan, the last of the remaining unreconstructed Marxists in the party. So, Mr Sitaram Yechury and others continue to walk a tightrope. Mr Bhattacharjee, the 'good Marxist', hopes Singur marks a temporary retreat and investors will not ignore West Bengal. As for Mr Achuthanandan, the 'bad Marxist', he valiantly continues to wage war against capital and capitalists.

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