KOLKATA, 29 Apr. 2009: Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Tuesday fell back on his biggest USP the promise of fast-tracking industrialization to drum up support for the Left ahead of elections to 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Bengal which would be held on Thursday. Addressing a meeting of the Calcutta Citizens' Initiative an association of eminent individuals from different streams, including a few mid-rung industrialists just 48 hours before the poll bugle is sounded in the state, the CM held out hope that mega projects announced earlier such as the numerous steel plants and petrochem hub were bound to come up, despite pressures induced by the global economic meltdown.
"I just can't accept the Opposition position. They are opposing everything, even the extension of national highways and acquisition of land for a thermal power plant at Katwa. But, I accept the challenge since I believe in people power and not muscle power," Bhattacharjee told a gathering at the G D Birla Sabhagar, which also included Nicco's Rajive Kaul and Titagarh Wagon's J P Chowdhary from the industrialist fraternity. "I have spoken to Sajjan Jindal and he has assured me that the JSW plant would definitely come up despite the problems in raising funds from banks at the moment," the CM added.
Incidentally, Jindal has already gone on record that the proposed 10-million tonne plant at Salboni, which was originally supposed to entail an investment of Rs 35,000 crore, could be delayed because of the current tough economic climate. Bhattacharjee whose industrialization policies had helped disparate Opposition parties to join hands said his government had taken lessons from the mistakes committed earlier in acquiring land. "Our intention was not bad. I have no personal preference for cars. All I wanted to see was the smiling faces of thousands of workers at Singur. We wanted to make Nandigram another Haldia. But the Opposition played a destructive role," he asserted.
However, the state was in the process of setting up a land bank largely comprising fallow land at a cost of Rs 500 crore to ensure that plots could be handed over to companies quicker. A rehabilitation package was also being drawn up for affected landlosers. "We are negotiating with a Czech company for a mass rapid transit system," he added.
Earlier, other speakers invited at the programme said the electorate should teach the Opposition a lesson for its negative brand of politics. "We have to ensure that agitational politics is washed away from the shores of West Bengal," town planner R M Kapoor said. "The intellectuals who are seeking change through hoardings should have the courage to specify what change they want," painter Sunil Das said.