The situation at Nandigram is complex and quite difficult for an outsider to make any sense of. The use of force by the cadres of ruling party to evict the opposition was a big operation in scale and brutal. But the fact is that the tone and tenor of this action is not anything new and sudden in West Bengal. Only that this time the stake was too high. [Image source]
People of the state know that the rule of the party reigns supreme, and in many cases the role of the administration is secondary. There are numerous instances, but instead of repeating them let me try to find out what is different this time.
As I’ve noted in my past articles, India has now emerged as one of the top destinations in the world for investments, and they are mind-boggling by any standard. India’s promising GDP growth and the booming stock markets on the back of superlative performance by the key infrastructure sectors are just 2 indications bearing testimonies to that.
In tandem with the rest of the country, Kolkata too, being a key city in eastern India and gateway to not only the North East but also the South-East Asia, is poised for phenomenal growth. In fact West Bengal is on the cusp of attracting huge investments from both inside India and abroad.
My guess is that the money waiting to find its way for investments in the state is so massive that its force has become the deciding factor to determine the course political destiny of the state. Here is how.
Most investments need land but acquiring it has become difficult in the state because of the opposition protest. The irony is that though the Left Front has the people’s mandate in the last elections it fought on the plank of progress, it still cannot make the headway in making land available to the industrialists due to some mindless protest by the opposition.
Didn’t the opposition protests make any contribution? It did by raising the awareness of potential land-losers that they could indeed get higher compensation for giving away their land. Jindal’s proposed 10MT steel plant at Salboni is an example.
Unfortunately however, despite the tangible gains it earned that it could sow now to reap benefits later, the opposition party rather chose to let its typical brand of agitation go on and on in search of continuous political mileage. In the process it made the situation murky and inhospitable for large-scale investments.
It fitted the opposition purpose because it could then prove that the business climate in Bengal is not conducive for investment. If by that the state suffers, let it.
The investors meanwhile are growing restive. Judging from the several high-profile visits of business delegations from different countries and those of VVIPs like the Prime Ministers of Italy and Japan, the US Secretary of Finance, and suchlike, it is not difficult to conclude what a promise lays in store for West Bengal in terms of investments.
The Telegraph’s KP Nayar, the Washington-based diplomatic editor and the US correspondent of the daily, wrote in the paper’s Nov 14 editorial, “Bengal is a prize that is being eyed by global corporations.”
So, what takes? Let me again quote another famous saying, this one by none other than Deng Xiao Ping, the indisputable architect of the Chinese economic might, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”
This is as true for the global companies as it is for the ruling Left Front in Bengal. And it does appear true with the Congress at the center as well, looking at supposedly quid-pro-quo understanding between it and the CPM for not creating din over the Nandigram issue in exchange for IAEA negotiations.
Do I support the Nandigram onslaught the way it was carried out? My answers are 2-fold – one unequivocal ‘No’ and a partial ‘Yes’.
No, because this job was for the security agencies to do. If the state police proved inadequate, the government could have easily asked for central forces and even the army like it happens in the North East states. By allowing the cadres doing the job it is proved that the administration is subservient to the party in West Bengal.
However, I also feel that the ‘liberation’ of Nandigram is good in the sense that it will help pave the way for investments to come relatively unhindered to the state. And therefore I repeat Deng’s saying, “It doesn’t matter if a cat is black or white, so long as it catches mice.”
If now I dare make a forecast, it will be that Nandigram will shortly be in the limelight again – this time for investment, suggested shifting of chemical hub to Nayachar island notwithstanding.
Let the future unfold.