Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee may not be the lone voice in favour of industrializing Bengal within the CPI(M), any more. For him, it’s always been a personal battle for Bengal’s development; or, at best a battle fought by him and his deputy, Nirupam Sen. No longer, though. Going by what former housing minister, Gautam Deb, said recently, the CPI(M) will not only facilitate land acquisition for private projects (if it is back in power) , it will even play the role of a “provider”.
Deb was not alongside Bhattacharjee, when he courted big private capital (foreign and domestic) openly. Not that Deb was ever against private capital, his claim to fame being the township at New Town in Rajarhat. But defeat appears to have brought them on the side.
That the Bengal unit in CPI(M) feels emboldened enough to speak in favour of industrialization is primarily because it has sensed an opportunity in Banerjee’s weakness. Her “aam admi” policies have turned Bengal into an industry graveyard.
Land, considered to be scarce for industrial projects in Bengal, is available, but there are no takers. For instance, of an 1150-acre industrial park at Kharagpur, only 540 acres has been allotted, and Telcon accounts for half of it. At the 1458-acre Panagarh Industrial Park, Matix has been allocated 500 acres and H&R Johnson 66 acres. The rest is available, according to the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC) website.
So is industrialization CPI(M)’s poll plank for panchayat elections? “Of course, we will talk about it. Why should we not? Forget about fresh investments, they (the Trinamool Congress government) couldn’t even keep the projects that we had bagged,” a CPI(M) leader said.
The party, however, will build an argument for industrialization. The dismal state of the rural economy, reflected in farmer suicides, will be highlighted, and industrialization will be projected as the only alternative to come out of the stagnation in rural development.
Will people buy the argument? Will the fact that Singur’s “unwilling farmers” are yet to get back their land make them reconsider their position? Will a united CPI(M) succeed in presenting a better case for industrialization.
As of now, it’s anybody’s guess. Excerpts from Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s article on industrialization in Bengal published in January, 2007: The opposition accuses us of having agreed to capitalist development. Is it possible to talk of socialist development in one state of our country? What we can do at the most in this structure is to bring in some alternative Left policies. This comprises land reforms, protecting public sector, some initiatives in education and health, and so on. The Party Congress and the Central Committee have said that this means there is no need for foreign investment where we have the technology. We are not to allow FDI in retail trade. Do we need foreign entrepreneurs to sell our agricultural products as one Indian entrepreneur told us some time back?
IBM, Cognizant, and GE Capital have evinced interest in investing in the IT sector and we need their units. We will await the final denouement of the software debate. We must do something about our young men and women who are computer-literate and know English.
Mitsubishi Chemicals invested Rs. 1.7 billion at Haldia, and they are willing to open a second unit there—we really cannot refuse them. Videocon is willing to set up a TV factory in North Bengal. Shall we dissuade them? Jindals have chosen to set up a Rs. 35.5 billion steel plant at Salboni in Midnapore West. The message that we would like to send to entrepreneurs abroad is that we need private capital.