The bitter acrimony which started in 2007 between West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and industrialist Ratan Tata has found its way back to the forefront. At the time, Tata was forced to abandon setting up shop in the state and Mamata rode on the high of the Singur and Nandigram agitation to win an unprecedented mandate. This time, an assessment by Ratan Tata that the industry hasn't developed in Bengal under Mamata's rule has been the trigger of confrontation. And Amit Mitra, the industry and finance minister of West Bengal is busy proxy fighting for Banerjee calling Ratan Tata "delusional".
On Wednesday, Ratan Tata reportedly blamed the Singur agitation for the failure of his Tata Nano project. But just last year, he had said poor marketing resulted in the dismal performance of his much touted car. Still smarting from the massive loss he had to face in Singur while confronting the agitation lead by Mamata Banerjee, looks like he himself is confused about the true reason why the Nano failed to create a flutter in the market. His blunt assessment of West Bengal's industry is probably an outburst from his deep seated anger about the issue. Tata had recently heaped lavish praise on Narendra Modi as a “doer”. But he has never criticised the poor human development indices in Gujarat or other lacunae the state faces. So it looks like his personal equation is having an effect on his public assertion, something unbecoming of a person of his stature.
The Bengal government in its part has also been extremely rigid with land acquisition rules. Didi is still in an agitation mode like she was in the opposition. Thus, any criticism or dissent is promptly quelled by her. The deficits have steadily increased and the industrialisation is still laggard - something that touches a raw nerve in the ruling class of Bengal. Responding to Ratan Tata's quip could have been avoided by Mamata or her ministers. By personally attacking Tata, TMC will only attract negative publicity and will increase scrutiny on the lack of infrastructure and the poor economic condition of the state. It will further erode the already depleted “Brand Bengal” Mamata prefers to boast about.
But in the middle of all this, the common people of Bengal are the ones who end up getting a raw deal. By raising rhetoric against Tata, Mamata can further concentrate her rural votes. Tata in any case will be immune to all criticism. But Bengal's status as a pariah state for industrialists will increase further. The best and the brightest will continue to migrate out of the state for jobs and livelihood. Politics will triumph at the altar of common sense.