Hyderabad (Telangana): Close to 11 years have passed since Tata Motors took flight from Bengal, yet the state is still carrying an anti-industry tag. That Bengal is yet to shed off its negative image regarding the manufacturing industry, was evident in several editions of the state government-sponsored industry meets.
The Bengal Global Business Summits organised by the Mamata Banerjee-government during the past 10 years have shown no beacon of forward movement. Though there were desperate attempts by the state government to showcase numbers and statistics in support of an industry-friendly atmosphere in the state, several voices within the government had questioned the data.
The same stalled industrialisation issue is back in Bengal, courtesy BJP. Modi is literally picking up the industrialisation pieces and weaving his 'Poribortoner Poriborton' (Change of the change) slogan in the state. His poll plank – if BJP comes to power, then a favourable room for industrialisation will return to Bengal, youth will get jobs and a new Bengal will emerge.
It was during the second stint of Buddhedeb Bhattacharjee that the state used to see a chief minister with renewed vigour, trying to secure investment for the state. Bhattacharjee was seen rushing to several states, including overseas, for giving the right push for industries in Bengal. The Writers' Buildings (then state secretariat) used to be abuzz with two words – industries and investment.
But, the reality was quite different. Bhattacharjee's dreams never materialised. No major industries came up. More so, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had to bear the scar of Singur and Nandigram and slide into oblivion. The Left Front was gradually relegated to the annals of political history.
Bhattacharjee wanted to wipe off the anti-industry label of the Left in Bengal. He wanted the people as well as his party to understand that 'Agriculture is our foundation and industry is our future' but failed. In fact, it boomeranged and as it is widely said, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee became the general in the Red labyrinth.
Mamata had also talked about setting up industries in Bengal after the much-touted Poriborton (Change) in 2011. Summits, conclaves, meets, visits and events kept happening, but how many industries were set up due to these initiatives or how many people got jobs out of them in the past 10 years, is anybody's guess.
Mamata Banerjee had assured that farmers would get back their land after the Tatas left Singur. After many legal hurdles, the land did get back the tillers, but by then the character of the land in Singur site had changed permanently. The farmers are in fix today about what to do with the land parcels.
Amid all this, there has been again a renewed call for industrialisation. And this time from a third entity – the BJP.
The natural question is, will there be any industry in Bengal in the near future even if there is a change at the hustings? The saffron supporters claim in the affirmative and show the example of Gujarat. A state whose chief minister is today the Prime Minister. A state, which they say, has never turned away from industrialists. Narendra Modi has arrived on the pre-poll Bengal turf selling his industry-dream, based on the Gujarat model.
But, will it be an easy task?
The answer lies in the landholding pattern in West Bengal. Several experts have pointed out that the availability of large land parcels in one go is virtually impossible in the state. The worst sufferer has been the manufacturing industry. Not only the Tatas, but even Larsen and Toubro also backed out from their plan to set up a thermal power plant due to the non-availability of large land parcels. The Trinamool Congress-government's stand is, there will be no land acquisition for industries. Experts have pointed out that post-land reforms, if the state government does not change its land acquisition policy, then there is practically no way for setting up big industries in West Bengal, leave alone wooing investments.
If Trinamool Congress returns to power in the Bengal polls, the bottlenecks on land acquisition for industries would only be stretched. If BJP trounces Mamata, can they change everything overnight? Will they show that much vigour and will?
Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's political fate remains a constant reminder of what happens if things are rushed in Bengal. Obviously, the BJP would not walk that way. So, what happens to all this industrialisation pitch of Modi-Shah? Will it eventually turn to be an enigma, which remains to be a constant hot potato? For answers, the wait is only getting shorter.