Tuesday, October 7, 2008


Nano, the world's first $2500 car, does not seem to able to get rid of 'red'. First, Ratan Tata found a home for it in West Bengal, one of two Indian states ruled by communists. For a change, the red brigade rolled out the red carpet for this large capitalist project, thanks solely to the Deng Xiao Ping like Chief Minister of the state, Buddhadev Bhattacharjee.

Then, as the project was getting completed, the Nano was shown the red flag by Mamata Bannerjee, who thought she could get some additional votes by inciting unhappy famers whose land had been acquired by the government for it. Every one thought that she would finally show the green flag while she thought that Ratan Tata would not drive the Nano away despite her not changing the colour of the flag. But he did.

Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Gujarat all beckoned the Nano with tempting red carpets. Maharashtra was never going to get it thanks to Raj Thakeray who now sees red if anyone is not a 'Marathi manoos'(Maharashtrian man) enough. Poor Ratan Tata does not know even Hindi, forget Marathi. So he was always in danger of seeing the red flag go up in the state too.

Of the remaining three states, incidentally all BJP ruled, Gujarat, to my mind was always the forerunner. Narendra Modi, its Chief Minister who has literally transformed the state economically, has displayed in the seven years of his rule that his state is the best in the country to do business in. He is fond of saying that in Gujarat there is only red carpet, not red tape. He backs this dramatic claim by exceptional personal integrity and a Spartan lifestyle that is alien to Indian politicians of today. Also, when it comes to hard-nosed business sense, no one in India can better Gujaratis and Marwaris.

Land, that explosive commodity which saw the Nano say 'no' to Singur just before it was to roll out, was perhaps the most sensitive issue that settled the case in favour of Gujarat. The state government has readily available government land at Sanan near Ahmedabad of which 1100 acres have already been handed over to the Tatas so that construction can start without any delay. Take that for speed. As an added sweetener, the government is also extending the sops being offered to the Tatas to Nano's vendors, something they did not get in Singur. That will soften the blow of the losses that that have suffered in Singur. The government has also apparently promised that it will do everything needed to see that the plant comes up in double quick time.

An agreement has just been signed between the Tatas and the government of Gujarat for Nano's new home. As per sketchy details available now, in the first phase 2.5 to 3 lakh cars will be manufactured. In the second phase, the capacity will go up to 5 lakh cars. Ratan Tata, speaking at a press conference after the signing has said that this a momentous day as Nano has found a new home in such a short time in a positive and conducive environment, after the sad experience at Singur. And at slightly better terms than in West Bengal.

Till yesterday, Ratan Tata did not know where the Nano would go. Today it has finally got the real red carpet welcome that it deserved all along, in Gujarat. Just four days after it quit Singur. This also happens in India!