Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bargaining on the Singur issue

Mamata to Buddha: I won’t be CM ‘Ordinary’ & adamant

Calcutta, Sept. 13: Mamata Banerjee does not want to be chief minister, she wants to be Sonia Gandhi.

“Buddhada, mark my words, I shall never accept the post of chief minister even if Trinamul comes to power,” Mamata told the chief minister last evening, flashing a smile.

At the two-hour meeting in the Nandan complex to sort out the Singur issue, Buddh- adeb Bhattacharjee had held the Trinamul Congress leader’s hand and begged her not to block the Tata small-car project.

“Mamata Debi, I am requesting you to let us go forward on this one project,” Bhattacharjee pleaded.

“We are not going to be in power for all time to come. I am sure you will become chief minister one day in the future, and only then, you or your government will start feeling passionately about a project that can boost the economy of your state, get it prestige and international acclaim. Please try to imagine what you will do when you are CM and need to do something about a project that has got stuck in politics.”

The argument cut no ice with Mamata.

“Buddhada, most certainly count me out of this business (of becoming chief minister). I shall remain what I am, an ordinary woman,” she told him.

Four years ago, Sonia Gandhi was thought to be the au-tomatic choice for Prime Minister when she led the Cong- ress to power at the Centre. But she stunned the country by heeding her “inner voice” and stepping aside for Manmohan Singh.

Trinamul leaders are nursing hopes of the party unseating the Left at Writers’ Buildings in 2011, and Mamata suggested she has already planned for the day.

“Why, there are a number of worthy people in Trinamul, like Parthada (Chatterjee) and others who are well equipped to handle the job,” she told the chief minister.

Partha Chatterjee is leader of the Opposition.

Bhattacharjee continued to try to persuade Mamata to come around on Singur. “Mamata Debi, as chief minister I can give you my word that the government will from now on consult you on every project that is conceived in Bengal, but I sincerely request you to let this one project happen. Bengal will lose its image across the country if it does not take off,” he said.

In response, Mamata folded her hands. “Please Buddhada, don’t ask me to do that. You allow me to have my say on this one project and I give you my word, I won’t bother you at all even if I am not consulted on whatever projects you have on the ground or plan in future,” she countered.

The chief minister persisted: “But Mamata Debi, do consider the situation. We, the government, have taken a decision in principle to get the Tatas to set up the world’s first small-car project in Bengal, we can’t walk away from it.”

The Trinamul leader wasn’t biting. “I have no quarrel with your principles for which your party even nearly brought down the UPA government, but I would like you to appreciate that I have certain principles as well,” she retorted.

While the exchange was taking place, Purnendu Bose, a Naxalite leader who was in Mamata’s team, tried to cut in. “Oh no, not you,” Bhattacharjee stopped him. “It is possible Mamata Debi and I will agree on something in the future, but there is no way I can hope to agree with your politics.”